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– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
European Security

Europeans Split Over U.S. Missile Defense Plans

Oliver Meier

European countries are divided over a recent U.S. offer to begin negotiations with Poland and the Czech Republic on basing components of a U.S. anti-missile system on their territories. Washington has proposed building a radar for the system in the Brdy district in the Czech Republic and a site for 10 missile interceptors near Koszalin , Poland , to counter a potential threat from longer-range Iranian missiles aimed at the U.S. East Coast and parts of Europe . The proposal has stirred strong opposition from Russia . (See ACT, March 2007. )

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek stated during a visit to Poland that “both countries will probably answer in the affirmative,” the British newspaper The Independent reported Feb. 20. Subsequently, Prague officially announced that it would begin talks. Some European governments and domestic critics, however, have attacked Warsaw and Prague for this initial positive reaction. NATO appears likely to discuss the issue at upcoming ministerial meetings.

Different Zones of Security

Some European leaders are concerned that the U.S. system would not be able to protect some EU and NATO members against such a threat because they are too close to Iran . According to a March 11 Financial Times report, a recent NATO study found that some southeastern European states would not be covered by the system, which attempts to intercept missiles as they travel through space. Stefan Fuele, Czech ambassador to NATO, told Agence France -Press March 14 that Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and Turkey could not be protected because of the short distance between Southeast Europe and Iran. Lt. General Henry Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency, during a March 15 briefing in Berlin confirmed that midcourse interceptors based in Poland would not be able to destroy missiles launched from Iran and aimed at parts of Southeast Europe . Obering stated that this region would have to be protected by separate systems that destroy incoming warheads in the terminal phases of their flight.

Many European governments are not willing to accept such different zones of security. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in a March 12 monthly video briefing, published on NATO's website, stated that although NATO will not “interfere” in bilateral discussions between the United States and the Czech Republic and Poland, he had the intention “to ensure that there are no ‘A-grade' and ‘B-grade' allies when it comes to security.”

The Role of NATO and the EU

Some European leaders also are concerned about NATO and the European Union being sidelined. Germany is the most forceful advocate for making the U.S. proposal a topic within NATO. Chancellor Angela Merkel in a March 13 interview with German TV station ZDF said that “ Germany prefers a solution within NATO and an open dialogue with Russia ” about U.S. missile defense plans. Alluding to a mandate given at the 2002 Prague NATO summit to examine options for addressing the increasing missile threat to alliance territory “consistent with the indivisibility of allied security,” Merkel argued that NATO missile defense should be “seen as a task for the alliance collectively.”

Currently, NATO is coordinating national efforts related only to tactical ballistic missile defense programs. In September 2006, NATO launched the Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense Program to protect troops in the field against short- and medium-range missiles. The program aims to create the infrastructure and command and control capabilities to permit various U.S. and European systems to work together. It is scheduled to have an initial operational capability by 2010 and to be fully operational by 2016. (See ACT , June 2005. )

A secret, 10,000-page feasibility study prepared for NATO's November 2006 summit in Riga, Latvia outlined options intended to protect NATO member states' territory and population centers against longer-range strategic missile threats. But the alliance's 26 member states could not agree to implement any of the options contained in the study. Instead, they mandated a follow-on study to assess the political and military implications of missile defense for the alliance.

One crucial question is whether the U.S. anti-ballistic missile defenses could be integrated into NATO, as German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung suggested March 2. Ted Whiteside, head of NATO's Weapons of Mass Destruction Center, told ISN Security Watch March 21 that such integration of command and control structures is conceivable and that NATO is already using an integrated command system for theater missile defense (TMD), applying predefined rules of engagement. “TMD should be the model for NATO's acquisition of a missile defense capability over the next few years,” Whiteside argued.

Washington is willing to brief allies and Russia on its plans but refuses to give NATO a say on its intentions for expanding ballistic missile defense to Europe . The United States sees its ballistic missile defense as a national program and wants to establish bases in Poland and the Czech Republic on the basis of bilateral agreements. Obering, in the March 15 briefing, argued that the European components of the missile defense system could complement current NATO anti-missile efforts. He said that U.S. missile defense components could become a national contribution toward an alliance-wide defense system against long-range missile threats if and when NATO decides to establish such a system. Obering was skeptical whether NATO members would be willing to pay the costs for such a system. Costs for the construction of the two bases, which would be assumed by Washington , are estimated to be at least at $3.5 billion. The NATO study is said to have estimated costs for a NATO-wide defense system, depending on coverage and technology, at $10 billion to $20 billion.

Nevertheless, it seems almost certain that NATO cannot avoid the issue. De Hoop Scheffer in his video message promised that U.S. missile defense plans would be discussed at NATO ministerial meetings later in the year, as well as at the April 26-27 informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Oslo . Norwegian Defense Minister Anne-Grete Strøm Erichsen told the newspaper Aftenposten on Feb. 22 that Norway 's basic position in the upcoming consultations would be “to oppose the type of missile defense the United States is planning.” Norway is “very skeptical,” Erichsen said, because it fears new arms races.

Some, like Luxembourg 's foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, would prefer to see the issue discussed within the EU, with the goal of developing a unified European position. “We must not again be caught between America and Russia ,” Asselborn warned March 12 in the German magazine Der Spiegel .

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a March 18 commentary to the German weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagzeitung (FASZ) stated that “neither NATO nor the EU must be divided over a necessary open debate.” Steinmeier alluded to European divisions over the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq and argued, “There is no ‘old' and ‘new' Europe , and no one should try to sow such seeds of discord for short-term gains.”

So far, there appears to be little willingness in Brussels to engage in discussions on a missile defense shield. “We are not as Europeans concerned to establish a mechanism of that type,” Javier Solana, the EU's high representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, told the Associated Press March 2. Even though the EU in December 2003 adopted a joint strategy that aimed for greater coherence among member states on security issues, Solana said that it “is for every country to decide” whether to cooperate with the United States on missile defense.

Fears of a New Arms Race

Behind the debate lie differences in how to react to Russia 's statement that the U.S. missile defense plans could lead Moscow to target Poland and the Czech Republic and prompt Russia 's withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. (See ACT, March 2007. )

Russia 's strong statements appear to have backfired and strengthened the resolve of central European leaders who favor deployment of the U.S. system. Some in western Europe, however, fear a new arms race between the United States and Russia . French President Jacques Chirac warned during a March 9 press conference that “we must be very careful, as regards this project, not to encourage the creation of new dividing lines in Europe or the return to an obsolete order. To my mind, this project raises many questions to which thought will have to be given before responding.”

A French diplomat told Arms Control Today March 15, however, that not everyone in the French government was prepared to follow Chirac's line. The diplomat said that although some in Paris believe that the U.S. plans could divide Europe, others took a more fatalistic view, arguing that the United States would go ahead with the program anyway and that U.S. interceptors might protect France against ballistic missile threats.

The German government has taken a different tack. Steinmeier, in the FASZ op-ed, warned that “we cannot allow a missile defense system to be either a reason or a pretext for a new arms race.”


The United States was hoping to conclude bilateral agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic this year in order to begin construction in 2008 and to have operational bases as early as 2011.

A Polish diplomat told Arms Control Today March 16 that he is still optimistic that the United States would be able to convince European allies of the need for a missile defense system. The diplomat argued that, had Europeans not ignored U.S. plans for developing a missile shield for such a long time, it might have been possible to find a solution to protect all of Europe. “Now, this is an American project, and one cannot expect it to cover all of Europe,” he stated.

The Polish government, however, is not unified in its support for missile defense. In the Swiss paper Neue Zürcher Zeitung Feb. 17, Vice Prime Minister Andrzej Lepper of the populist party Samoobrona, voiced sympathy for Russia 's concern and called for a referendum on the government's plans. The Polish diplomat confirmed to Arms Control Today that such a referendum was a possibility and stated that in any case the Polish parliament would have to vote on the plan. Fifty-five percent of Poles oppose the plan, according to a survey for the Warsaw-based Centre for Public Research.

The Polish government may already be trying to take the heat out of the debate. Polish Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti Feb. 26 that “the negotiating process could last several years because of various technical, legislative, and other issues.” Fotyga remained opposed, however, to making the missile defense plans a European issue. “All I can say with certainty is that, during the discussions, we will prioritize Poland 's security and then the security of Europe and the world,” she said.

Czech Vice Prime Minister and Europe Minister Alexandr Vondra in a March 3 interview with the German paper Die Tageszeitung said that his government was open to a limited debate in NATO on missile defense plans but cautioned that Prague “will not ask Russia for permission” to build the radar site.

Ondrej Liska, chairman of the European Affairs Committee in the Czech parliament, told Arms Control Today March 21 that his Green Party would make its “support for the construction of a radar site on Czech territory conditional on consensus in the EU Council and the NATO Council on U.S. missile defense plans.” The Green Party is the junior partner in Prague 's current coalition government, which also includes Conservatives and Christian Democrats.

Liska, deputy head of the Green Party, said that NATO and the EU first have to agree on how real the threat is from ballistic missiles, whether defenses are capable of defending against such a possible threat, whether such a system could fuel new arms races, and whether missile defenses could have a negative impact on other, cooperative instruments to tackle proliferation. Opposition Social Democrats also said they would condition their support on an agreement within NATO on the missile defense plans.

According to recent polls, a majority of Czech citizens is opposed to building a U.S. missile radar in the country. Of the 72 citizens of the village of Trokavec , where the X-band radar facility is supposed to be built, 71 voted against the government's plan.

Should Poland or the Czech Republic decide to drop out of the project, the United States could consolidate both sites in one of the two countries. Bases could also be built in other countries. Ukraine , for example, has recently indicated some interest in participating in such a system. Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy reported March 19 that Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko was considering whether it should “join the countries that had missile defense plans.” The broadcast, which was translated by the BBC, also quoted Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych as saying that Kyiv was ready for talks and could bring space monitoring capabilities, shared jointly with Russia , into such a system. There has also been talk of basing radars for the missile defense system in the Caucasus, a suggestion that has triggered strong reactions from Moscow .

On Feb. 23, a spokesperson for the British government confirmed reports that London was involved in talks with Washington about the potential deployment of interceptors in the United Kingdom and that the government welcomes “plans to place further missile defense assets in Europe .” Obering confirmed that missile defense bases on British territory would improve the U.S. ability to intercept Russian ICBMs.

“If [the Russians] are concerned about us targeting their intercontinental ballistic missiles, I think that would be problematic from the [perspective of the United Kingdom] because I believe we probably could catch them from a UK launch site,” he told the Financial Times March 7. The United Kingdom already hosts a radar at Fylingdales, which feeds information to the U.S. missile defense system.

UK Nuclear Submarine Plan Wins Vote

Wade Boese

Despite some opposition within the ruling Labour Party, British lawmakers recently approved a plan to start designing a new class of nuclear-armed submarines. The vote puts the country on course toward retaining nuclear weapons until around midcentury, although top officials say that could still change.

Last December, Prime Minister Tony Blair's government proposed building successors to the four current submarines composing the United Kingdom 's entire nuclear delivery force. (See ACT , January/February 2007. ) The first two boats of the existing Vanguard-class fleet are expected to be retired by 2024, and the government contends the inaugural replacement vessel must be operational by then to maintain the current posture of always having one submarine on patrol.

Estimating that it will take 17 years to get the first new submarine from the drawing board to the sea, Blair called on legislators to support the project this year. The House of Commons complied March 14, voting 409-161 to start the proposed submarine design phase. Immediately before, lawmakers defeated 413-167 an initiative to postpone the vote.

Opponents offered a variety of reasons for why a decision was unnecessary this year. Some lawmakers said that the Vanguard-class submarines might be modified to last longer than presumed, while some argued that the new class of boats should take no longer to develop than the 14 years required for the Vanguard fleet. Other lawmakers said it was premature to consent to such a consequential and long-term endeavor at such an early stage.

Blair and his backers, however, argued that the claim that development of the Vanguard fleet took only 14 years neglected to take into account all the work needed to complete the system. They also said that lawmakers should welcome the opportunity to give their input sooner rather than later and warned that if delays mounted, British industry might not be staffed and positioned properly to carry out the project.

Blair assured the House of Commons March 14 that this would not be the final opportunity for lawmakers to have a say on the program. “This parliament cannot bind the decisions of a future parliament, and it is always open to us to come back and look at these issues,” the prime minister stated. He implied one chance would be between 2012 and 2014 when the main contracts for design and construction are supposed to be awarded.

Approximately one-quarter of the 352 members of the Labour Party, which campaigned for unilateral British nuclear disarmament during much of the 1980s, were on the losing side of the two votes. Their defection was offset by strong support for the proposal from the main opposition party, the Conservatives.

The final measure included a commitment to pursue additional steps toward nuclear disarmament in compliance with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Countries without nuclear weapons pledged to forswear them through that 1968 accord, while nuclear-armed states, including the United Kingdom , promised to eventually eliminate their atomic arsenals.

Whether London would break its NPT obligation by building new submarines was a key issue pitting Labour Party members against each other. Indeed, four members of the government resigned their positions in protest over Blair's proposal. One of them, Nigel Griffiths, who was deputy leader of the House of Commons, argued March 14 that “we must lead the world in campaigning for the eradication of the nuclear threat and we must lead by example.”

Other Labour members echoed Griffiths during the nearly six-hour debate that preceded the two votes. They warned that developing another generation of nuclear-armed submarines would undermine the NPT by signaling that nuclear weapons were vital for preserving a country's security. One Labour member, Jeremy Corbyn, questioned whether adding “vastly enhanced” submarines would be “contrary to the whole spirit of the treaty and likely to encourage proliferation rather than reduce it.”

Blair, other Labour officials, and Conservative speakers asserted the United Kingdom was and would remain in compliance with the NPT, citing past and proposed nuclear reductions. Although developing new submarines is the core of the prime minister's plan, it also calls for shrinking the country's operational nuclear forces by 20 percent, to fewer than 160 warheads. London 's secret stock of reserve warheads is supposed to undergo an equivalent cut.

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett blasted as “complete and utter rubbish” the notion that constructing new submarines would provoke the spread of nuclear weapons. She further dismissed the possibility of other countries following the United Kingdom 's lead even if it abolished nuclear weapons, saying, “[W]e have been disarming over the course of the past 10 years, with singularly little response.” Since the Cold War's end, the United Kingdom is the sole recognized nuclear-weapon state that has trimmed its nuclear capability to a single type of delivery option and claims to have reduced its nuclear explosive power by about 75 percent.

Submarine proponents repeatedly pointed to other countries' possession of nuclear arms and the suspected pursuit of such arms by other states. The prime minister and his supporters also contended the new submarines would be insurance against the uncertainty of the future, particularly the risk that “rogue” states or terrorists might acquire and use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.

Opponents responded that terrorists would not be deterred regardless of what armaments the United Kingdom brandished and that such a threat was less likely than other dangers, such as global climate change, requiring attention and money. Michael Ancram, a rare Conservative critic, asserted the submarine acquisition costs constituted “a pretty hefty premium against a pretty unlikely threat.”

The government projects that it might cost up to $39 billion to procure four new submarines and nearly $3 billion annually to operate them. Costs could be reduced if London builds only three new submarines, an option Blair has floated.

Skeptics say spending will be higher than estimated because arms programs are prone to exceeding budgets. They point to the United Kingdom 's ongoing and roughly $2 billion over budget Astute-class conventional attack submarine program as the latest example.

A majority of Labour members backed Blair despite, or perhaps because of, their party's past abolition advocacy. Some members appear to attribute, at least partially, the party's poor electoral results during the 1980s to that policy. Explaining his support for Blair's proposal, Labour member Gerald Kaufman stated, “It is one thing to revisit the scene of the crime; it is quite another to revisit the scene of the suicide.”

Still, Beckett said, “today's decision does not mean that we are committing ourselves irreversibly to maintaining a nuclear deterrent for the next 50 years.” She noted lawmakers will have chances in the coming years to affect the United Kingdom's nuclear status by deciding on replacing or renewing British nuclear warheads as well as the U.S.-made and -leased Trident D5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles that carry the warheads.

Blair: Retain UK Nuclear Weapons

Wade Boese

British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently unveiled a plan to extend until about midcentury his country’s possession of a slimmed-down nuclear weapons arsenal. British lawmakers will vote as early as March on the initiative.

The United Kingdom deploys about 200 nuclear warheads aboard four Vanguard-class submarines. Launched separately between 1992 and 1998, these submarines will start reaching the end of their service lifetimes in the early 2020s.

Blair ruled out letting the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons capability expire along with the current submarine fleet. Describing British nuclear weapons as the “ultimate insurance,” he said Dec. 4, 2006, that it would be “unwise and dangerous” to give them up under current conditions and uncertainty about the future.

Still, Blair proposed that the active force could be trimmed down to less than 160 warheads and maybe three submarines. The prime minister’s plan also envisions a 20 percent cut in the backup warhead stockpile, the size of which is secret.

Blair’s government estimates that designing and building the first replacement submarine will require 17 years. Hence, a decision to begin such an effort, according to the government, must be made this year to be able to continue in 2024 the current practice of always having one submarine on patrol.

Another decision that Blair says must be made this year is whether to participate in the U.S. life extension program for the submarine-launched Trident D5 ballistic missile. British and U.S. submarines are outfitted with this missile, which is currently calculated to last until around 2020. The life extension program is supposed to prolong the missile’s service 20 more years.

The government detailed its case for extending the existing nuclear posture in a 40-page white paper, “The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent.” This December 2006 report cites the maintenance and modernization of nuclear arsenals by other major powers, the possibility of additional countries joining the nuclear club, and the threat of nuclear terrorism as reasons for preserving British nuclear forces. “We can only deter such threats in [the] future through the continued possession of nuclear weapons,” the report declares.

Blair acknowledged that terrorists most likely would not be dissuaded by the threat of nuclear attack or retaliation, but implied that such considerations could influence regimes that might aid terrorists. The report asserts that “any state that [the British government] can hold responsible for assisting a nuclear attack on our vital interests can expect that this would lead to a proportionate response.” French President Jacques Chirac enunciated a similar policy a year ago. (See ACT, March 2006.)

In general, the report maintains that the use of British nuclear arms would be considered “only in extreme circumstances” of self-defense or of protecting fellow members of the 26-nation NATO alliance. The government will “deliberately maintain ambiguity about precisely when, how and at what scale we would contemplate use of our nuclear deterrent,” the report states.

Keeping with this policy, the report notes that the United Kingdom reserves the option of using nuclear weapons first. China and India are the only two nuclear-armed countries that publicly say they will not do so.

Although the report registers concern about biological and chemical weapons, it stresses the “uniquely terrible threat” that nuclear arms pose and emphasizes that the British nuclear force’s “focus is on preventing nuclear attack.” A British government official told Arms Control Today Dec. 8 that “the reason why we keep a nuclear deterrent” is the possession of nuclear weapons by other states.

South Africa, which announced in 1993 that it had secretly accrued and then disposed of six completed nuclear weapons, criticized Blair’s proposal as “disappointing.” In a Dec. 5 press release, the South African Foreign Ministry argued London missed an “opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to the irreversible elimination of its nuclear weapons arsenal, consistent with its nuclear disarmament obligations and commitments.”

Article VI of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) obligates the United Kingdom, as well as China, France, Russia, and the United States, to work toward disarmament. Moreover, the five countries pledged in 2000 at an NPT review conference to “an unequivocal undertaking…to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.”

The white paper defends Blair’s proposal as consistent with British commitments. It states, “We believe this is the right balance between our commitment to a world in which there is no place for nuclear weapons and our responsibilities to protect the current and future citizens” of the United Kingdom.

Blair contended that British nuclear disarmament would not be reciprocated by other governments and, therefore, was impractical. “Unfortunately there is no evidence that any major nuclear power would follow such an example,” Blair argued. “And, as for the new, would-be nuclear powers, it really would be naïve to think that they would be influenced by a purely British decision.”

Then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan made a different argument just days before Blair’s comments. Annan said Nov. 28 that the retention of nuclear weapons by some countries might motivate others to acquire such arms. “By clinging to and modernizing their own arsenals…nuclear-weapon states encourage others…to regard nuclear weapons as essential, both to their security and to their status,” he warned.

Such anti-nuclear weapons views used to prevail inside Blair’s ruling Labour Party, which during the 1980s supported unilateral British nuclear disarmament. But the revival of the party’s fortunes in the 1990s and the election of Blair have been attributed in part to Labour dropping its disarmament stand.

Although some Labour lawmakers in the House of Commons have signaled they will break with Blair in the upcoming nuclear vote, the party’s main rival, the Conservative Party, backs Blair’s proposal. Conservative leader David Cameron stated after Blair’s announcement, “This is our only nuclear weapon, it is a minimum deterrent, and we have the right to replace it.”

The government explored replacement options other than new submarines, but these alternatives, including long-range aircraft and land-based silos, were rejected as more vulnerable and expensive. The government projects that procuring up to four new submarines will cost between $29 billion and $39 billion and extending the Trident’s lifetime will total nearly $500 million.

Russia, West Still Split Over Georgia, Moldova

Wade Boese

The Cold War ended more than 15 years ago, but the legacy of the Soviet Union’s breakup still divides governments. At a recent high-level Brussels meeting, Washington and other Western capitals clashed with Moscow over its lingering military presence related to “frozen conflicts” in Georgia and Moldova.

In a closing chairman’s statement to the Dec. 4-5 ministerial meeting of the 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht described European political-military affairs as “anemic, if not stagnant.” In particular, he said, “we are not closer to a solution than a year ago on Moldova and Georgia.”

At the November 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul, Russia pledged to withdraw its military forces from the two former Soviet republics. Russia’s commitments to Georgia were part of a political act tied to a revision of the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, and Moscow’s vow to vacate Moldova was noted in the summit’s political declaration.

But these promises remain unfulfilled. Apart from Moscow’s reticence to let go of its foreign outposts in Georgia and Moldova, the withdrawal has been complicated by the location of Russian troops and weapons in separatist regions inside each country.

In Georgia, Russian forces are in the process of leaving two bases, Batumi and Akhalkalaki, by the end of 2008; but some 300 Russian “peacekeepers” occupy one base, Gudauta, in the breakaway region of Abkhazia. A larger contingent of about 1,250 Russian troops is encamped in Moldova’s separatist region of Transdniestria.

The Kremlin says its soldiers prevent hostilities from breaking out, but Georgia and Moldova contend Moscow is meddling in their affairs. Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili told the recent OSCE meeting that Russia’s “credibility as an honest broker of the peace process has long been shaken,” while Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Stratan said his country wished to be “free of any form of foreign military or quasi-military presence.”

Led by the United States, Western governments have sided with Georgia and Moldova. Speaking Dec. 4 to reporters attending the Brussels meeting, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns asserted that “if both countries are to be fully sovereign, independent, and truly in control of their territory, then the Russian troops should leave.”

Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, emphasized a day earlier that “it is critical that there be only peaceful solutions to these so-called frozen conflicts.” He noted, “[T]hese [conflicts] seem obscure, but if they go wrong, they’re not obscure.”

The United States and its 25 fellow members of NATO are trying to exert some diplomatic pressure on Russia to withdraw its forces as soon as possible. Specifically, NATO countries are refraining from ratifying the adapted CFE Treaty. This agreement from the 1999 Istanbul summit would replace the original treaty’s bloc and regional deployment limits on major conventional arms with national limits. (See ACT, November 1999.)

All 30 states-parties to the 1990 agreement must ratify the 1999 version for it to enter into force. Moscow is eager for this to happen because the updated accord would relax constraints on Russian arms concentrations on its territory and allow other countries to join the regime. The Kremlin is upset that some NATO members, particularly Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, have no arms limits because they are outside the original treaty, which has no accession option.

Moscow has repeatedly blasted NATO countries as blocking entry into force of the adapted CFE Treaty. In Brussels Dec. 4, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated a warning that the NATO position “brings into question the viability of the [CFE] Treaty itself.”

The United States and its allies, however, fault Russia for the delay. “Ratification of the adapted CFE Treaty by my government and many others still awaits Russia’s fulfillment of the remaining commitments that were made at Istanbul,” Burns said Dec. 4.

De Gucht further stated, “As for the CFE Treaty, it is hostage to the nonimplementation of the Istanbul commitments, and Istanbul itself is hostage to the nonresolution of the frozen conflicts.” He contended that possible solutions are “now well known” but “what is lacking in most cases is the political will to strike a deal.”

Prospects of this political will emerging soon appear dim. Russia and Georgia continue to disagree over the purpose of a proposed German-led international inspection of Gudauta, and multinational talks on Transdniestria remain suspended.

Yet, in what one OSCE official described Dec. 8 to Arms Control Today as a “small step forward,” Russia and Transdniestria permitted 35 representatives from OSCE members to conduct a Nov. 13, 2006, visit to the main Russian ammunition depot at Colbasna. This marked the organization’s first visit there since Russia last removed some of its estimated 21,000 metric tons of munitions from Moldova in March 2004. Russia has rebuffed Western government requests for follow-on actions.

News Analysis: An End to U.S. Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Europe?

Oliver Meier

NATO’s policy of basing U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in several European countries has lasted long after the end of the Cold War, despite increasing pressure from parliamentarians, disarmament advocates, and public opinion. Now, a more mundane yet more tangible force may now tip the balance against the status quo: money. Public statements from and interviews with government officials and experts in Europe indicate that European governments may not be willing to make the investments in a new generation of nuclear-capable aircraft or participate in relevant technology sharing that would be needed to sustain the policy.

Nuclear sharing was developed during the Cold War to deepen U.S.-European military ties and to create a forum where Europe could have a say in Washington’s nuclear policies. As the Cold War ended, about 4,000 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons remained on European soil, intended to offset Soviet conventional and nuclear forces. In a series of bilateral understandings with the Soviet Union and then with Russia in the early 1990s, President George H. W. Bush sharply reduced that number. Today, an estimated 480 B-61 gravity bombs remain deployed in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, which also possesses its own nuclear arsenal. Of these weapons, 180 are assigned for use by the five non-nuclear-weapon states. These weapons remain under U.S. custody during peacetime but can be released to U.S. allies for delivery in times of war.

U.S. and European officials readily acknowledge that they have held on to the weapons for predominantly political rather than military reasons. In its 1999 Strategic Concept, NATO implied that improved relations with Russia meant that the weapons’ military purpose had largely ended, but called for retaining the weapons as a means of shoring up the political solidarity of the alliance. U.S. and European officials have also seen the weapons as a potential bargaining chip to encourage Russia to part with its own much larger arsenal of such weapons, variously estimated at about 3,000 deployed operational warheads.

But the status quo is imperiled by the aging of NATO’s nuclear-capable fighter fleet. Over the next several years, a number of European NATO members involved in nuclear sharing arrangements have to decide whether to replace aging fighter aircraft capable of delivering nuclear weapons, commonly known as “dual-capable aircraft.” Amid budget pressures and growing public concern, some key groups are beginning to balk. These concerns come as NATO is expected to update the 1999 Strategic Concept, including a possible revision of its nuclear doctrine.

German Disagreements

Discussion of the issue is the most highly charged in Germany, which hosts an estimated 150 U.S. nuclear weapons. Germany relies exclusively on Tornado PA-200 aircraft to deliver U.S. nuclear weapons. The Tornado entered service in the early 1980s and had been expected to be phased out over the next 15 years. Nuclear-capable Tornados are deployed at Büchel Air Base, along with an estimated 20 B-61 bombs. Germany had been expected to begin retiring them as early as 2012.

The Tornados are to be replaced by the Eurofighter (Typhoon), a multinational aircraft built jointly by Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. But the German government in July 2004 told parliament—the Bundestag—that it does not intend to certify the Eurofighter to carry nuclear weapons. Such certification would require Germany and its partners to grant the United States access to Eurofighter technology, which Europeans are reluctant to do because they fear the loss of commercial proprietary information.

Berlin is looking for a way to delay making a decision. In February, the government stated that it might keep some Tornados beyond the expected end of their service life in 2020. The only clear purpose for such a move would be to preserve the ability of the German air force to deploy U.S. nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, there is concern within NATO about Germany’s long-term commitment to nuclear sharing. A senior NATO official told Arms Control Today June 2 that a decision by the German government to “extend the life of the Tornado would only delay and not solve the issue.”

Such fears are heightened by growing pressure from the Bundestag. Since April 2005, all three opposition parties in the Bundestag—the liberal Free Democrats, the left-of-center Green Party and the socialist Left Party—have introduced resolutions calling for a complete end to Germany’s involvement in nuclear sharing and a withdrawal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from German territory.

This year, the debate also is taking place within the government. When the draft of a new Defense White Paper was released to the Bundestag this spring, an unprecedented dispute about German support for NATO’s nuclear doctrine erupted between center-left Social Democrats and conservative Christian Democrats, which together form the governing “Grand Coalition.”

The draft, which was leaked to a German internet site (www.geopowers.com), states that nuclear deterrence will remain necessary to deter hostile states possessing nuclear weapons, including states with a fundamentalist ideology. Echoing earlier NATO language, the draft goes on to argue that “the common commitment of Alliance partners to war prevention, the credible demonstration of Alliance solidarity and nuclear posture require also in the future German participation in nuclear tasks.” The text specifies that this includes “the deployment of allied nuclear forces on German soil, participation in consultations, planning and providing means of delivery.”

This language was immediately and publicly rejected by the Social Democrats and, along with a subsequent position paper, made clear that for the first time that a governing party in Germany was calling for withdrawing from NATO nuclear sharing. The position paper, written by Social Democratic members of the Bundestag’s Defense Committee, categorically states that Social Democrats are “not willing to provide new means of delivery” once the Tornado has reached the end of its service life “in a few years.” Then, Germany’s participation in “tactical nuclear sharing” should end, the Social Democrats demand.

Rolf Mützenich, the Social Democrats’ spokesperson for arms control, told Arms Control Today June 13 that this means that Germany would no longer provide aircraft or personnel to participate in NATO nuclear sharing. Mützenich cautioned that “as long as these weapons exist,” Germany should stay involved in the “strategic operative” aspects of nuclear sharing, namely, it should continue to participate in alliance consultations and decision-making on nuclear doctrine. As a NATO member state, Germany is eligible to participate in nuclear deliberations—in the Nuclear Planning Group for example—even if it does not host nuclear weapons. Mützenich emphasized that as far as he is concerned, Germany’s participation in nuclear sharing should end “as early as possible” before 2012. He called on the German government to closely consult with partners and allies in order to initiate an open debate within NATO on the role of nuclear weapons in today’s world. “In the long-term, nuclear weapons should be abolished altogether. As long as that is not achievable, NATO should renounce the first use of nuclear weapons,” Mützenich said.

Christian Democrats are now the only party in the Bundestag that supports the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in Germany and NATO’s nuclear posture. Responding June 9 to questions from Arms Control Today, Christian Democrats defense spokesperson Bernd Siebert rejected the idea of basing a decision on Germany’s future involvement in nuclear sharing on the phasing out of the Tornado. “Instead, it should be a political judgment whether nuclear sharing is still up to date or not.” According to Siebert, the Christian Democrats support Germany’s involvement in nuclear sharing as an insurance against unforeseeable risks and because it “guarantees political influence on the use or nonuse of nuclear weapons.” Siebert said he sees no necessity “to fundamentally call into question NATO’s current strategy.”

The white paper draft was prepared by the Defense Ministry, which is headed by Christian Democrat Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung, and is currently being reviewed by the Foreign Ministry, which is headed by Social Democrat Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier. Discussions on Germany’s future involvement in nuclear sharing are expected to continue when the next draft is debated in the Bundestag.

Italian Uncertainties

Germany is not the only one of the nuclear-sharing participants to have doubts. A new government in Italy is also raising concerns.

Italy’s past Conservative government of Silvio Berlusconi had committed Rome to purchasing both the Eurofighter as well as its competitor, the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), with the JSF taking over the Tornado’s nuclear missions. The JSF, also known as the F-35, is a $35 billion multinational program led by the United States. Partners include the nuclear-sharing countries of Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

But the new center-left government of Prime Minister Romani Prodi, elected in April, has called into question Italy’s commitment to the JSF. Should Italy decide to opt out of the program, the country would be left only with the non-nuclear Eurofighter.

According to a April 17 Defense News report, Giovanni Urbani, aerospace spokesperson for the Democratic Left, which is part of Italy’s governing coalition, proposed on April 11 that Italy “pull out of acquiring the JSF and look at the third-tranche Eurofighter instead, thus boosting a European production line.” New Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema told Reuters on May 21 that “a politics of disarmament must be relaunched, one that invites reflection on part of the great powers, starting with the United States.” Further, Francesco Martone, head of the Rifondazione Comunista-European Left in the Foreign Affairs committee of the Italian Senate, told Arms Control Today June 12 that the new government “should cancel Italian participation in the JSF.” Martone, says that Italy should initiate discussions on nuclear sharing “with a view to free our country from nuclear weapons.” Martone, whose party is part of Italy’s governing coalition, is preparing a bill that proposes to reinvest Italy’s share in the JSF in development aid.

Some in NATO, however, believe that the new Italian government will eventually support the JSF, if only to avoid hefty financial penalties for opting out.

The Bomber Gap

Italy is not the only country to raise questions about whether and how it might go forward with the U.S. fighter. Delays, cost overruns, and disagreements between the United States and its allies about access to JSF technology continue to plague the program. Unless these are resolved soon, Turkey and the Netherlands might not have nuclear-capable aircraft when their current fleet of F-16s starts reaching the end of its service life as early as 2009.

Under current plans, a nuclear-capable variant of the JSF is slated to enter into service in 2012 or later when a fourth version of the fighter could start to roll off production lines. But no JSF partner country has yet committed to buying this series of JSFs. Thus, there is a real possibility that Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey might not be able to deploy dual-capable aircraft for several years, removing these countries’ ability to participate in nuclear sharing.

Some in NATO fear that politicians in member states might put off deciding whether to buy nuclear-capable aircraft until NATO is forced to alter its nuclear posture to accommodate technological and financial realities. “I think politicians will delay making a decision as long as possible. I don’t anticipate any serious discussions on this issue until the 2008-09 time frame,” the senior NATO official said. By that time, it might be too late for some countries to have a smooth transition from nuclear-capable Tornados or F-16s to a follow-on aircraft.

Parliamentarians in the Netherlands and Turkey as well as Belgium have called for debates about their governments’ support for NATO’s nuclear weapons policy. This raises further questions about the ability of governments to make the financial pledges necessary to secure long-term involvement of their countries in nuclear sharing.

For the time being, the Netherlands remains committed to the JSF. However, the Dutch government resigned June 30 and the largest Dutch opposition party opposes involvement in the program. It has vowed to cancel agreements should it become part of a new government after parliamentary elections expected in October. The NIS News Bulletin May 3 quoted Labour Party (PvdA) member of parliament Luuk Blom as predicting that “not a single JSF will be bought under [a] PvdA government. It is to be a firm issue in our election program.” The Dutch Defense Ministry is expected to sign an agreement with the United States at the end of this year governing the production, maintenance, and continued development of the JSF.

Turkey has not committed firmly to buying either the Eurofighter or the JSF. Ankara may decide by the end of 2006 how it will spend $10 billion it has earmarked to buy 100 new-generation combat aircraft. Turkey is already a member of the JSF consortium but may end up buying some Eurofighters as well. According to a June 19 report in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, the Turkish Parliament on June 12 discussed the presence of an estimated 90 U.S. nuclear weapons at the U.S. air force base in Incirlik. Sukru Elekdag, a member of parliament and a former ambassador to the United States, who initiated the debate, noted that the United States had already withdrawn nuclear weapons formerly deployed in Turkey’s rival, Greece. Moreover, Elekdag stated that it would be difficult to explain the continued presence of U.S. nuclear weapons on Turkish territory to its Muslim and Arab neighbors.

Belgium has sidestepped the issue by investing in a life-extension program for its F-16s, which is expected to keep its fleet flying for another 15 years. But Brussels has rejected an invitation to join the JSF program as a partner, and there appears to be no rush to take a decision on a follow-on model for Belgian F-16s before 2008-2010, in particular with general elections taking place next year. In April 2005, the Belgian Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Belgian government to take an initiative in NATO to review its nuclear doctrine and to initiate the gradual withdrawal of U.S. tactical nuclear from Belgian territory. (See ACT, May 2005.)

A New Nuclear Policy for NATO?

This November’s NATO summit in Riga, Latvia, is also likely to duck the issue of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. The senior NATO official complained that “there are currently no discussions on NATO nuclear policy within NATO” and that “this is not on anybody’s plate.” At most, NATO heads of state and governments are expected to launch a review of the Strategic Concept.

That there is currently no movement to adapt NATO’s nuclear posture was confirmed June 8 when NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels reaffirmed that NATO continues “to place great value on the nuclear forces based in Europe and committed to NATO, which provide an essential political and military link between European and North American members of the Alliance.”

NATO leaders this fall are unlikely to consider changing their 1999 Strategic Concept, which states that “solidarity and common commitment to war prevention continue to require widespread participation by European Allies involved in collective defence planning in nuclear roles, in peacetime basing of nuclear forces on their territory and in command, control and consultation arrangements.” Instead, they are likely to approve a so-called Comprehensive Political Guidance. This document, which was agreed on last year but has not yet been published, apparently confirms NATO’s current nuclear posture.

There is, however, much talk in NATO about a new Strategic Concept to be agreed at a possible NATO summit in 2009, which marks NATO’s 60th birthday and the 10th anniversary of NATO’s current Strategic Concept. Robert Bell, who was NATO’s assistant secretary-general from 1999 to 2003 and previously served as a senior arms control official on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration, told Arms Control Today June 13 that it is not clear that NATO will decide to update the Strategic Concept. If it does, “there is no guarantee” that the issue of dual-capable aircraft will be debated, he added.

Bell detects little willingness within NATO or among member states to change the alliance’s current nuclear doctrine and believes that the responsibility for taking the initiative on nuclear sharing rests with Washington. “Were this or were a new administration to decide to end the program, I do not believe the participating NATO allies would seriously try to stop it,” Bell said.

Indeed, some in the Pentagon favor ending nuclear sharing. A February 2004 report by the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board recommended that the secretary of defense “consider eliminating the nuclear role for Tomahawk cruise missiles and for forward-based, tactical, dual-capable aircraft” because “there is no obvious need for these systems, and eliminating the nuclear role would free resources that could be used to fund strategic strike programs of higher priority.”

In an October 2005 interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had indicated a willingness to leave the future of NATO nuclear deployments up to Europeans. Rumsfeld noted that it is up “to the Germans and to NATO” to pass judgment on the purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons on German soil. “Some countries in Europe made the decision to allow them to be on the continent. It was seen to be in their interest and is still seen that way today as it persists. So one would assume it continues being in their interest,” Rumsfeld said.

Nevertheless, the current timetable means member states participating in nuclear sharing may need to make a decision on whether to purchase dual-capable aircraft before a new nuclear doctrine is in place. Thus, they could end up buying aircraft with a nuclear capability that in the long run may not be needed.

One means under consideration of guarding against this possibility and also deflecting public criticism of NATO’s nuclear posture would be to withdraw U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe but leave the technical and physical infrastructure associated with nuclear sharing in place so that the weapons could be redeployed swiftly if and when NATO considers such a move necessary. A withdrawal of all deployed B-61 bombs would not affect readiness because NATO has already slowed response times of U.S. nuclear forces deployed in Europe from days to months. Member states participating in nuclear sharing would still need to provide dual-capable aircraft, although perhaps in reduced numbers. The air forces of these countries would continue to train for nuclear missions by using a “Realistic Weapons Trainer” and dummy weapons. Fifty-four new trainers were delivered to Europe as recently as February 2004.

From NATO’s perspective, such an arrangement of “virtual” nuclear sharing might have a number of technical and political disadvantages. NATO member states may be reluctant to redeploy nuclear weapons in times of crisis for fear of sending a wrong, escalatory signal. The United States currently deploys specially trained Munitions Support Squadrons of approximately 125-150 soldiers each at every base where U.S. nuclear weapons are stored. These units would either have to remain stationed at bases where nuclear weapons could be redeployed or kept on standby in the United States for possible relocation in Europe. Both are expensive options and may be difficult to justify, given how unlikely it is that NATO nuclear weapons would ever actually be used. There is also a fear at NATO headquarters in Brussels and national defense ministries that NATO’s nuclear policy may over time fade into irrelevance if the real weapons are withdrawn.

Further, advocates of a denuclearized NATO are likely to criticize virtual nuclear sharing as half-hearted and insufficient from a disarmament perspective. Such a move would not enable NATO to reap the arms control benefits associated with a complete termination of nuclear sharing. Thus, Russia may continue to argue that NATO’s nuclear policy continues to stand in the way of a broader agreement on tactical nuclear weapons.

Bell does not believe that there are realistic alternatives to current sharing arrangements and predicts that the current “model will remain until the NATO [tactical nuclear force] comes out altogether and for good.”

Public Opinion

Ultimately, European publics may have the last word. Public pressure on NATO to revise its nuclear policy is growing. A May survey commissioned by Greenpeace on the question of nuclear weapons deployments revealed that almost two-thirds of the populations in those countries (aside from Turkey) that host U.S. B-61 bombs want Europe to be free of nuclear weapons. Anti-nuclear sentiments were strongest in Italy and Germany (71.5 percent and 70.5 percent, respectively) and weakest in the United Kingdom (55.7 percent). The survey also made clear that more, than 15 years after the end of the Cold War, about 60 percent of the people in Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands are unaware that U.S. nuclear weapons continue to be deployed in their countries.


Brown Supports Continuing UK Nuclear Weapons Program

Gordon Brown, the heir apparent to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, announced his support for developing a successor to the United Kingdom’s strategic submarine fleet June 21. Brown’s support for the program, which could cost as much as $45 billion (see ACT, April 2006), came despite significant public and parliamentary opposition—including within the governing Labour party—to the move.

“In an insecure world we must and always will have the strength to take all necessary measures fro stability and security,” Brown said. The United Kingdom currently deploys 58 U.S.-supplied Trident D5 missiles with up to 200 warheads.



Plans for Missile Defenses in Europe Unsettled

Wade Boese

U.S. plans for establishing a strategic ballistic missile defense base in Europe remain unsettled, but Russian officials are sharpening their criticism of the proposal. Meanwhile, leaders of the 26-member NATO alliance will soon begin weighing options for proceeding with missile defenses in Europe.

The Bush administration has installed nine long-range missile interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, and another two at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. A version of the deployed interceptors, which are to hone in on and collide with an enemy warhead in space, has yet to be tested against a target in flight. The first test of this type might occur as early as August.

The Pentagon revealed in 2004 its intentions to expand long-range interceptor deployments to Europe to defend against possible ballistic missile launches from the Middle East. (See ACT, July/August 2004.) Although Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Director Lieutenant General Henry Obering told reporters March 20 that the United States would like to begin work on the project in 2007, no plans have yet been finalized.

MDA spokesperson Rick Lehner told Arms Control Today June 14 that the possible hosts for a base of 10 interceptors have been narrowed to the Czech Republic or Poland because of their location and expressed interest. “Consultations are continuing” with the prospective hosts, according to Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Karen Finn in a June 16 interview with Arms Control Today, but she declined to elaborate. The Pentagon’s office of international security policy is heading the talks on the U.S. side.

Marek Purowski, a spokesperson for the Polish embassy in Washington, also told Arms Control Today June 14 that the talks were ongoing but that no decisions had been made. He said many technical details, such as who will control the interceptor’s operation, still needed to be worked out.

Some U.S. lawmakers are also balking at funding the site. As part of its fiscal year 2007 budget request submitted to Congress in February, the administration asked for almost $56 million to begin construction of the European site and for an additional $63 million to begin manufacturing the proposed base’s 10 interceptors. In a defense appropriations bill passed June 20, the House of Representatives zeroed out the base construction and interceptor funds.

The Senate has yet to approve a defense appropriations bill, so the ultimate status of the funding request remains uncertain. Both chambers each pass an appropriations bill, and then they work out the differences between the two before sending a final version to the president.

Russian leaders, however, are not waiting on the U.S. budget process to register their opposition to the proposed missile defense base. Speaking June 7 to the Duma, the lower house of Russia’s legislature, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized the base as one that over time might be used to intercept Russian missiles or secretly house offensive ballistic missiles. “The danger also arises of the use of the planned anti-missile defense silo launchers for clandestine deployment of ballistic missiles,” Lavrov stated.

Lehner dismissed such a possibility. He said the base would have “no offensive capability whatsoever” and interceptors and ballistic missiles have “entirely different configurations for silos.”

Moscow is not alone in presuming that a European-based U.S. missile defense site, in some form, will one day be a reality. A 10,000-page study recently completed by NATO postulates that the most efficient way for building a missile defense architecture in Europe is to use the proposed U.S. site as one of the initial building blocks, according to a NATO official familiar with the study interviewed June 14 by Arms Control Today.

Initially requested in 2002 and officially completed May 10, the “NATO Missile Defense Feasibility Study” concluded that building an anti-missile system to protect all members’ territories was technically feasible and outlined various options for achieving that goal. The NATO official said alliance military planners must now “await political guidance” on which options, if any, to pursue.

The study will be presented to NATO leaders at the alliance’s heads of state summit November 28-29 in Riga, Latvia. If the leaders determine that proceeding with missile defenses is “desirable,” the official said the next step for the alliance will be to define the specific architecture.


European Conventional Arms Treaty in Limbo

Wade Boese

Nearly seven years ago, 30 countries agreed on a revised set of European conventional arms limits to replace caps originally negotiated when the Soviet Union existed and Europe was divided into two hostile military blocs. Yet, the outdated limits remain in effect as NATO and Russia continue to quarrel over the necessary actions for bringing the new limits into force.

The latest NATO-Russian clash occurred May 30-June 2 in Vienna at the third review conference of the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. This accord establishes equal caps, as well as deployment zone limits, on the battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that NATO and the now-defunct Warsaw Pact could station between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains. In November 1999, the 30 CFE states-parties concluded an adapted CFE Treaty that essentially replaced the bloc and zone limits with weapons ceilings for each country. (See ACT, November 1999.)

But the original agreement will remain in force until all 30 CFE states-parties ratify the adapted version. To date, only Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine have done so. Led by the United States, NATO countries are postponing ratification until Russia fulfills 1999 commitments to withdraw its armed forces from Georgia and Moldova.

At the recent review conference, Russia complained bitterly about NATO’s inaction and offered a plan for bringing the adapted treaty into force before the end of 2007. It also suggested that the states-parties provisionally apply the revised agreement’s terms starting Oct. 1.

Moscow is eager for the adapted agreement to enter into force because it provides Russia with greater flexibility on where it stations its armed forces within its territory and contains a provision for adding countries to the regime and having them be bound by arms limits. Russia charges that NATO might deploy large amounts of weaponry in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—three NATO members that share borders with Russia and are not parties to the original CFE Treaty, which contains no accession option.

Joined by Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, NATO members rejected Russia’s proposals, insisting that Moscow must first end its military deployments in Georgia and Moldova. The conference ended in acrimony and without consensus agreement on a final document.

In a June 5 statement after the conference, the Kremlin denounced NATO’s position on Georgia and Moldova as “false and unfounded.” It further declared that the current CFE limits “had largely become obsolete and lost contact with reality” and stated Russia would conduct a “thorough analysis” of the conference outcome for drawing “conclusions concerning…implementation of the present treaty and dialogue with the Western countries on CFE Treaty problems.”

In a speech to the lower house of Russia’s legislature, the Duma, two days later, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated Moscow’s unhappiness. “We do not intend to make it look [like] the 1990 treaty has functioned normally and that we are satisfied with it,” Lavrov said. He also asserted Russia has “done everything” to bring the adapted treaty into force.

Moscow’s record on meeting its past pledges, however, is mixed. On March 31, Russia finally concluded an agreement on closing two Soviet-era military bases in Georgia, at Batumi and Akhalkalaki, by the end of 2008. In the November 1999 CFE Final Act, which was a political document adopted in conjunction with the adapted CFE Treaty, Moscow had committed to completing these negotiations in 2000.

In 1999, Russia had also pledged to vacate another former Soviet military base at Gudauta by the end of 2000. But use of the base, located in the separatist region of Abkhazia, is still being disputed by Georgia and Russia. Tbilisi charges that Russian military forces still occupy the base, but Moscow contends the remaining contingent of some 300 troops are peacekeepers. The two governments have been trying unsuccessfully to agree on terms for an outside inspection of the base to assess its status.

Moscow has made much less progress in departing from Moldova. An estimated 1,400 Russian troops and an ammunition dump totaling almost 21,000 metric tons remain in the separatist Transdniestria region. Russia last removed military equipment from this area in March 2004. Russia had pledged in 1999 to withdraw from Moldova completely by the end of 2002.

Russia’s recent blustering is reportedly making some NATO members, such as Germany and Turkey, nervous about how Moscow might respond to NATO members maintaining their firm stand on Russia withdrawing from Georgia and Moldova. But a U.S. government official interviewed June 8 by Arms Control Today said the alliance is “hanging together.” The official added that the general view of CFE Treaty states-parties, despite Russia’s rhetoric, is that the accord is “working well.”


Chirac Outlines Expanded Nuclear Doctrine

Oliver Meier

French President Jacques Chirac Jan. 19 outlined changes to his country’s strategic policy, providing unprecedented detail about the circumstances under which France might be prepared to use nuclear weapons. The speech at the nuclear headquarters of the Strategic Air and Maritime Forces in Brittany represented the first major speech by Chirac on the subject since 2001.

Deterrence Broadened

Chirac emphasized that France’s nuclear arsenal continues to defend the country’s vital interests. But he broadened the definition of those interests beyond traditional concerns such as the protection of territory and population as well as the “free exercise of sovereignty.” According to Chirac, France’s vital interests now include “strategic supplies and the defense of allied countries.” Even threats or blackmail against these interests could require a nuclear response from Paris, he said.

Chirac also expanded the list of countries to be deterred by the French nuclear arsenal to include states that support terrorists. “The leaders of states who would use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would consider using, in one way or another, weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and adapted response on our part,” Chirac warned. “This response could be a conventional one. It could also be of a different kind.” Following a traditional line of French strategic thinking, Chirac maintained that terrorists themselves cannot be deterred by nuclear weapons.

Chirac’s speech was mainly directed at new regional powers, such as Iran, that possess weapons of mass destruction or ballistic missiles or are threatening to do so. Chirac insisted that France “under no circumstances” would use a nuclear weapon for purely military, as opposed to broader “strategic,” purposes. However, the president also cautioned that France could inflict “damage of any kind on a major power that would want to attack interests we would regard as vital.”

To make nuclear threats against regional powers more credible, Chirac said, French strategic nuclear weapons have been recon figured to be more flexible and reactive, enabling Paris to respond directly against such states. French Defense Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie explained to the Munich Conference on Security Policy Feb. 4 that this means that French nuclear strategy is now designed to have the added ability to hold at risk those who are directly threatening French interests, such as a country’s leadership.

Nuclear Modernization

France does not disclose details about its nuclear arsenal, but outside experts such as Bruno Tertrais of the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research have estimated that it possesses 348 nuclear warheads, based on four strategic submarines and 84 nuclear bombers. Some 288 of the warheads are said to have been deployed on M45 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). M45 missiles are believed to carry up to six warheads with a yield of 100 kilotons each. The remaining 60 warheads, with a yield of 300 kilotons, are be lieved deployed on ASMP air-to-surface cruise missiles aboard navy and air force bombers.

France is modernizing all components of its nuclear force. A new M51.1 SLBM is expected to enter service by 2010 and will have an extended range of 6,000 kilometers compared to the 4,000-kilometer range of the M45 it will replace. A new supersonic ASMP- Amélioré missile with an extended range of 400-500 kilometers is expected to enter service by 2007. By 2008, Rafale bombers will carry French ASMPs, replacing the nuclear-armed Mirage 2000N and Super Étendard. New nuclear warheads are under development for the navy as well as the air force and are expected to become operational in 2015 and 2007, respectively. These efforts, Chirac argued, give France “the means to cover threats wherever they arise and whatever their nature.”

The Feb. 9 edition of the French daily Libération claimed to pro vide further classified details, saying that French policy now aims to make firing a nuclear “last warning” more credible. According to the report, France has modified some of its nuclear weapons so that they can be detonated at high altitudes. This would create an electromagnetic pulse and damage an enemy’s electronic systems. France could also detonate a single nuclear weapon at an uninhabited area, for example a desert, in order to demonstrate its resolve to use nuclear weapons more widely. According to the article, the number of warheads on some French SLBMs has been reduced, and these weapons can now be retargeted while submarines are at sea.

Context and Audience

The timing of Chirac’s speech suggests a connection to the escalat ing crisis on Iran’s nuclear program. A French diplomat told Arms Control Today Feb. 9 that preparation of the statement took place in the context of the crisis around Iran’s nuclear program. However, the official pointed out that “the speech was not directed at one particular country; rather, it was aimed at new regional powers” more generally.

Addressing domestic critics of nuclear weapons spending, Chirac said it would be “irresponsible” not to devote about 10 percent of French defense spending (roughly $3.75 billion) to such weapons each year.

Invoking the term “concerted deterrence,” which he had first used in 1995, Chirac also tried to place French nuclear forces in the context of European defense. He renewed an invitation to EU partners to debate “together, the question of a common [European] defense that would take into account of existing deterrent forces, with a view to a strong Europe responsible for its security.”

This overture fell on deaf ears, however, at least in Germany, France ’s closest ally in the European Union. While a government spokesperson in Berlin played down the speech as not indicating a change of French policy, others criticized its timing, content, and style. Andreas Schockenhoff, defense and foreign policy expert for the co-governing Christian Democratic Party, told Reuters Jan. 20 that “[w]e have to convince these countries [like Iran] that their situation isn’t going to get any better if they possess nuclear weapons. I don’t think Chirac’s approach is really the best way to lead this debate and to increase pressure on Iran.”

Gert Weisskirchen, foreign policy spokesperson for the Social Democrats, the other half of the governing coalition, told Spiegel Online the same day that he saw Chirac’s speech “as a unilateral declaration on the part of the French president, and it’s something he ought to have discussed with his European partners first.”

Chirac’s statement contained no news on French arms control policies. France, which is the only nuclear-weapon state to have dismantled its facilities for the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons, continues to support negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty, he said. But Paris otherwise conditions progress in nuclear disarmament on global security and on other nuclear-weapon states’ policies, Chirac asserted.


Between Noble Goals and Sobering Reality: An Interview with EU Nonproliferation Chief Annalisa Giannella

Oliver Meier

In October 2003, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana appointed Annalisa Giannella as his personal representative on nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Her main job is to oversee the implementation of the European Strategy Against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, which was approved by EU heads of government in December 2003 in conjunction with the European Security Strategy.

Giannella’s mandate covers all issues relating to the European Union’s policies on weapons of mass destruction, including the current negotiations with Iran.

In a July 26 interview with Arms Control Today, Giannella discussed a number of external and internal difficulties hampering European efforts to develop an effective and coherent nonproliferation policy. The interview made clear that, on major issues such as talks with Iran, U.S. support for European efforts to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction continues to remain an essential condition for success. On some issues, including nuclear disarmament and the lifting of the EU embargo on arms to China, Europe and the United States continue to be out of synch.

Overall, the EU seems to have settled for a less ambitious nonproliferation policy. Achieving unity among the 25 EU member states in an enlarged union has become more difficult and sometimes appears to be an end in itself, rather than a means to achieve arms control goals. Given the current impasse on many multilateral arms control issues, the EU is increasingly shifting the focus of its nonproliferation efforts to bilateral agreements and export controls.


On Aug. 5, the EU submitted a comprehensive proposal to resolve the nuclear crisis with Iran. Tehran responded by dismissing the offer as inadequate and restarting uranium conversion operations at its facility in Isfahan (see "Iran Restarts Uranium Conversion"). Still, Giannella contended that talks between the EU and Iran had already had a positive effect in bringing Iran out of international isolation and halting the development of a potential nuclear weapons program.

Giannella predicted that the EU would support referral of Iran’s nuclear file to the UN Security Council if “the negotiation process is broken.” She argued that the positive element of Iran’s cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would no longer counterbalance the mistrust created by concealment of certain past nuclear activities by Tehran. The IAEA has found that Tehran had previously violated several of its obligations under nuclear safeguards agreements requiring Iran to report relevant nuclear activities to the agency.

Still, in Giannella’s view, referral to the Security Council would be the beginning of “a new process” that does not preclude a political solution to the crisis. “Everybody knows that the Security Council can adopt sanctions, but the Security Council also can decide to encourage, to frame the negotiations. The Security Council is a process. It’s not a one-shot event,” she said.

Giannella also said that cooperation with Russia on Iran issues is “excellent.” Russia has completed construction of Iran’s nearly operational light-water nuclear reactor at Bushehr and hopes to build more nuclear facilities in Iran in the future. It has also concluded an agreement on the supply of nuclear fuel and retrieval of spent fuel from the facility. “We take into account the fact that Russia has already concluded a contract with Iran for the supply of fuel for Bushehr I. We also take into account the possibility that Russia would supply Iran with a Bushehr II reactor. On the other hand, we understand that Iran does not necessarily want to depend exclusively on one country and would like to have other guarantees in order to have a power generation program that is totally safe.”

Transatlantic Issues

Giannella acknowledged that transatlantic divisions on arms control issues remain more than two years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which split EU members and boosted efforts to forge a unified European nonproliferation policy.

China Arms Embargo

Giannella confirmed that the EU still intends to lift the arms embargo against China eventually, saying that “we are always moving in that direction, and we are working in that direction.”

Beijing is pressing the EU to lift its 1989 arms embargo on China, while Washington is insisting that the EU retain the ban (see U.S., Israel Reach China Arms Deal). The current British-held EU presidency is unlikely to move forward on the matter because London is sympathetic to U.S. opposition to lifting the ban.

Giannella outlined a possible concession to opponents of lifting the arms embargo. She said measures contained in a voluntary 1998 code of conduct on conventional arms exports are going to be put into a legally binding Common Position. She also said that the “rules of the code of conduct have been reinforced and complemented.”

Other issues are also likely to come into play. Giannella noted that the EU is in constant discussions with the United States on those issues, including a regular strategic dialogue on Asia as well as a dialogue on East Asia that also includes Japan. As a third factor, she mentioned the necessity for China to make progress on human right issues. Giannella stated that “the decision to lift the embargo will be taken in the light of these three aspects. But as I said, the trend has been set, and it is for our political leaders to assess the balance of these three.”

Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation

Giannella also acknowledged that transatlantic divisions remain on nuclear disarmament. She observed that “there is not necessarily a convergence of views between the EU and the Americans.” She noted that, although EU-U.S. summits usually agree on a common agenda to fight proliferation, past summits were unable to agree on common language on disarmament issues.

Efforts to close the transatlantic gap include planned discussions between the United States and the EU on compliance with arms control and nonproliferation agreements. “We have agreed now to conduct specific consultations in the field of compliance.... Maybe closer cooperation in the field of compliance can help us in allaying the concerns of our American friends. And maybe we’ll have more cooperation in the area of disarmament as well.”

Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

The difficulty of forging common EU-U.S. positions was evident during May’s nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York.[1] Despite the failure of the once-every-five-years diplomatic session to agree on substantive measures to strengthen the accord, Giannella voiced satisfaction with the EU’s performance. She argued that, given “the starting positions of our member states, which are very different for political reasons, historic reasons, and because of differences of status in the [United Nations], it was a real effort, a real achievement” for the EU to agree on a common position. This binding document, which was approved by the European Council on April 25-26, provided a consensus basis and guideline for EU action before and during the review conference. The document included 43 specific measures to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime, from making the 1997 Model Additional Protocol the new safeguards standard under the treaty to changes intended to bolster the IAEA.[2]

Giannella said the EU was successful in getting the support of a number of states, including members of NATO and the New Agenda Coalition.[3] She said it was the fault of certain non-European NPT member states, particularly those “who did not necessarily have the same objective as the EU,” that the EU was unable to translate any of the goals contained in the common position into action.

Nonproliferation Capacity-Building

Still, Giannella painted a mixed picture of the EU’s nonproliferation capacities. She highlighted that the EU is increasingly integrating nonproliferation policies into its external relations, in particular by including nonproliferation clauses in trade and cooperation agreements with third countries, and detailed a series of such accords. Such linkages between security and economics have been included in agreements with Albania and Tajikistan; an agreement with Syria has been initialed but has not entered into force because of “other events in the country and in the region;” and there is agreement to include nonproliferation clauses in agreements with the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council[4] and in the renewal of the Cotonou Agreement (African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries). The EU is also negotiating with Mercosur about a nonproliferation clause.[5]

The interview was conducted at a time of institutional crisis for the EU. In May and June, two referenda on the new European constitution failed in France and The Netherlands, raising doubts about the viability of an institutional reform of the Common and Foreign Security Policy (CFSP) of the EU, including the creation of the post of EU minister for foreign affairs. As a result, the EU will continue to have two officials responsible for its CFSP.[6] Giannella, however, was upbeat that this “complication…can be overcome by increasing coordination” within the EU. “I’m not saying that this is an ideal situation, but it’s not necessarily a real obstacle to the development of the CFSP,” she said, referring to the CFSP’s development as a long-term exercise.

Giannella mentioned a number of specific measures the EU has taken to support multilateral arms control institutions, including the adoption of a joint action to support the IAEA. Joint actions enable the EU to become active on a certain issue and outline the scope and purpose of the EU’s operation. In the fall of 2005, the EU plans to adopt a joint action to support the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, which oversees the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Adoption of another joint action to support the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) is envisaged, but Giannella pointed out that in this case the EU is having difficulties in identifying a partner that would receive European support. That is in part because efforts to negotiate an international monitoring mechanism for the BWC broke down in August 2001, so there still is no multilateral verification agency in the biological weapons area.

The EU also lacks the institutional capacity to pursue all the goals contained in its WMD strategy. For example, a joint action to support the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty will not be worked on until the beginning of 2006 because the EU does “not have enough resources, whether human or financial, to launch too many joint actions in a short period of time,” Giannella said.

Despite these obstacles, Europe continues to pursue an ambitious nonproliferation policy. “Europeans are always in favor of a diplomatic solution, a political solution. If you read the WMD strategy, we say we want to fight against proliferation, but we want to address the root causes of proliferation. We try to understand why there are countries that are attracted by the development of a WMD program,” Giannella stated.

Click here for a complete transcript of this interview.

Oliver Meier is the Arms Control Association’s international representative and correspondent based in Berlin and a researcher with the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg.


1. For a summary of the review conference, see Wade Boese, “Nuclear Nonproliferation Meeting Sputters,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2005, pp. 22-23.

2. For background on the EU’s nonproliferation policies, see Oliver Meier and Gerrard Quille, “Testing Time for Europe’s Nonproliferation Strategy,“ Arms Control Today, May 2005, pp. 4-12.

3. The member states of the New Agenda Coalition are Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden. These countries frequently issue joint proposals to advance nuclear disarmament.

4. The Gulf Cooperation Council is an organization founded in 1981 that includes six Persian Gulf states: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates and aims to unify its participants economically and politically in a manner similar to the EU.

5. Mercosur (Mercado Común del Cono Sur) is a 1991 free-trade agreement between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Bolivia and Chile are associated members.

6. Currently, two officials share responsibility for the EU’s foreign policy. Benita Ferrera-Waldner is the EU commissioner for external relations, working for the EU Commission. Javier Solana is the EU Council’s high representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The EU Constitution proposed to unify these two posts and to create the post of union minister of foreign affairs, who would be responsible for the representation of the union on the international scene.



Belgium, Germany Question U.S. Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Europe

Oliver Meier

With May’s nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference as a spur, German and Belgian politicians are calling on NATO to work toward the withdrawal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.

On May 2, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, a Green Party member, called proposals to remove these weapons from Europe a “reasonable initiative.” Gert Weisskirchen, the foreign affairs spokesperson for Germany’s Social Democrat Party’s parliamentary caucus, said such a move would “send a signal toward Russia and get the disarmament process moving again.” The Social Democrats and the Green Party form Germany’s coalition government.

German officials said they hope to place the subject on the agenda of a NATO meeting scheduled for June. At the review conference, many non-nuclear-weapon states criticized the United States and the other four nuclear-weapon states for not doing enough to meet their NPT commitment to make good-faith efforts toward disarmament.

NATO Arrangements
Under NATO nuclear-sharing arrangements, an estimated 480 tactical nuclear weapons remain deployed in five NATO nonnuclear- weapon states (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey) and in the United Kingdom, which also possesses an independent nuclear arsenal. Canada and Greece have ended their participation in nuclear sharing.

The arrangements were developed during the Cold War to increase the other countries’ involvement in nuclear decision- making. The United States has reduced the more than 4,000 tactical nuclear weapons it had deployed in Europe at the end of the Cold War by about 90 percent. It has done so mainly to implement the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNIs) announced in 1991 by then-Presidents George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev. The nuclear weapons remain under U.S. custody during peacetime, but an estimated 180 such weapons can be released to U.S. allies for delivery in times of war.

Experts estimate that Russia still holds at least 3,000 tactical nuclear weapons, although many of these may not be in usable condition. The United States says that Russia has been implementing its obligations under the PNIs “for the most part” but still has questions, particularly with regard to Moscow’s land-based tactical nuclear arsenal. (See ACT, November 2004.)

On April 14, Germany’s Free Democratic Party introduced a resolution in the Bundestag calling on the German government to work toward the withdrawal of U.S. weapons there. According to a February study by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 150 U.S. weapons are housed in Germany, more than any other European country, with 60 permitted to fall under German command during a conflict.

A week later, the Belgian parliament unanimously passed a similar resolution. According to the NRDC, 20 B-61 gravity bombs—the only type of U.S. weapons still deployed in Europe— are stored at the Kleine Brogel air force base and could be delivered by Belgian pilots to their targets.

NATO and the Department of Defense do not publicly release information on the deployments.

Taking the Debate to a New Level
The parliamentary initiatives on NATO nuclear weapons in Belgium and Germany were both taken in the context of the 2005 NPT Review Conference, but they differ somewhat in their origins and dimensions.

Patrik Vankrunkelsven of Belgium’s Liberal and Democratic Citizens Party (VDP) told Arms Control Today May 9 that he had worked for more than two years to get the support of all of Belgium’s parties for the parliament’s resolution. He said the resolution was intended to trigger discussions in NATO on nuclear sharing, rather than seek simply a withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Belgium. “People are afraid to go it alone, both in the Senate and in the government,” Vankrunkelsven said. “On the other hand, in NATO everybody is waiting for everybody else” to take the initiative on the question of NATO nuclear sharing.

The resolution, therefore, is careful to frame possible changes in NATO nuclear sharing within a multilateral context. It asks the Belgian government to propose initiatives in NATO calling for the review of strategic nuclear doctrines; the gradual withdrawal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to help fulfill NPT disarmament commitments; and the initiation of negotiations between NATO and Russia on tactical nuclear weapons. These talks, perhaps within the formal mechanism of the NATO-Russia Council, would be intended to establish a framework for reducing and destroying U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, safeguarding and destroying Russian tactical nuclear weapons, and strengthening confidence-building and transparency measures regarding tactical nuclear weapons.

The German Free Democrats’ resolution was more pointed than its Belgian counterpart, calling on the government to “urge the American allies to withdraw tactical weapons deployed in Germany.” The resolution said it was necessary “in order to strengthen the credibility of the nonproliferation regime and as a sign that the disarmament obligations of the nuclear-weapon states are being taken seriously as integral parts of the NPT and are being pursued rigorously.”

The political success of the resolution may have come as a surprise. Perhaps intended to split the ruling Social Democrat- Green Party coalition on NATO nuclear policy, it triggered an avalanche of approving statements from almost all parties. Only the conservative Christian Democrats openly supported the continued deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in Germany. Ruprecht Polenz, the Christian Democrats parliamentary leader on disarmament matters, questioned in an April 14 debate whether the real motive behind the resolution was the intention of ending the U.S. nuclear umbrella entirely and contended that it should be Washington’s prerogative to decide how to protect its troops deployed in Europe.

The Green Party’s defense spokesperson in the Bundestag, Winfried Nachtwei, countered in a press release on April 29 that “a quick renunciation of nuclear sharing and a complete withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe could give nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation efforts a new and important impulse.”

What Next?
In Belgium, it is not clear if the resolution will press the Belgian government into action. Vankrunkelsven said the initial reaction has been one of skepticism. He and Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, both members of the Flemish VLD, have stressed the need to work together with NATO allies on this issue and have said that changes in NATO’s strategy should be tied to the dismantlement of Russian tactical nuclear weapons.

In Germany, the Liberal Party resolution was referred to the Bundestag’s subcommittee on disarmament, arms control, and nonproliferation, where it is likely to be debated in June.

More crucially, senior German officials said they intend to press the issue within NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) June 9-10. The NPG is charged with making decisions on NATO’s nuclear policies, but in recent years its meetings have become largely a routine exercise and take place only once a year.

German Defense Minister Peter Struck said during a visit to the U.S. base at Ramstein May 6, “I agree with Foreign Minister Fischer that we will bring up this issue within NATO [and that we] will have to clarify this in consultation with the other European allies who also have nuclear weapons deployed on their territory.” Rolf Mützenich, the Social Democrat spokesperson for disarmament, told Arms Control Today on May 10 that he, too, is certain that this time “the debate about NATO nuclear sharing will not go away.”

Apart from Germany, no NATO member state has officially taken a position on the future of NATO nuclear sharing in the context of the recent debate. However, U.S. spokesmen have made clear their preference for the status quo.

“Nuclear weapons deployed in Europe are an essential political and military link between the United States and Europe,” Lt. Commander Rick Haupt, spokesperson for U.S. European Command, told Arms Control Today May 17. “The United States is working with NATO on this issue,” Haupt said. He added that the United States “remains committed to NATO’s Strategic Concept which calls for maintaining nuclear weapons at a minimum level to preserve peace and stability.”

A Pentagon spokesman said that any change would have to take place in NATO. “Should any nation wish to initiate a change to any of these basic precepts, they would be free to initiate such a proposal in the appropriate NATO fora...all of which work on the principle of consensus,” said Major Paul Swiergosz.

Germany made an unsuccessful push in 1998 to persuade the alliance to adopt a policy that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons. (See ACT, November/December 1998.)

Still, Haupt said that the United States would “remain in support of the strategic concept even if there was a change to it.”

Regardless of the outcome of the political debate, Germany’s nuclear role in NATO is set to expire within the next 10 years. The German Air Force currently only has one type of aircraft certified to deliver nuclear weapons, the PA-200 Tornado, which will be replaced over the next 10 years by the Eurofighter. The German Defense Ministry, in a statement to the Bundestag on July 12, noted that “it is currently not planned and no preparations are being made to enable the weapons system Eurofighter for a nuclear-weapon deployment.” If the government sticks to this line, Germany will have no nuclear-capable aircraft by 2015 at the latest.




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