It is urgent to eliminate tactical nuclear weapons in Europe

From: Marc Finaud
Sent: June 27, 2018 5:30 AM
To: Marc Finaud
Subject: Elimination of Nuclear Tactical Weapons from Europe

Dear Colleagues / Chers Collègues

I am circulating the appeal below (in English and French), initiated by members of the French Nuclear Disarmament Movement (IDN), for a negotiation on the elimination of all nuclear ‘tactical’ weapons between NATO and Russia because of the danger they pose to the security and stability of Europe. This does not prejudge anyone’s position on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of nuclear deterrence or the need for any other measures to reduce the risk of nuclear war, but we strongly believe that the opportunity of the upcoming NATO Summit (11-12 July 2018) should not be missed.

If you agree with us, please let me know whether we can add your name to the list of supporters of the appeal, and whether you wish to do this on an individual basis or on behalf of your organization.

Anticipated thanks and best regards,

Marc Finaud
Bureau Member
Initiatives pour le Désarmement nucléaire

IT IS URGENT TO ELIMINATE NUCLEAR TACTICAL WEAPONS IN EUROPE!

The United States under the Trump administration is not showing any sign that it is willing to withdraw its 150 so-called non-strategic nuclear weapons deployed on the territory of five NATO European nations. It is even planning to dedicate $11 billion to their modernization. Such a move is not only militarily senseless but it would threaten the security and stability of the European continent by transforming gravity bombs with a mainly political value into precision-guided weapons with variable yield which would aggravate the risk of nuclear war in Europe. To overcome the current obsolescence of the existing tactical nuclear weapons, the best solution is not to modernize them but to eliminate them, in Europe and in Russia. But the necessary dialogue with Russia on such weapons is badly needed. As a response to Moscow’s behaviour deemed aggressive in Ukraine and its pressure on the Baltic states, NATO, in the 2016 Warsaw communiqué, merely recalled that “NATO’s nuclear deterrence posture also relies, in part, on United States’ nuclear weapons forward-deployed in Europe and on capabilities and infrastructure provided by Allies concerned”.

Earlier, however, NATO had put forward a more ambitious goal in its 2010 Strategic Concept: “to seek Russian agreement to increase transparency on its nuclear weapons in Europe and relocate these weapons away from the territory of NATO members. Any further steps must take into account the disparity with the greater Russian stockpiles of short-range nuclear weapons.”

Today Russia is resorting to gesticulation and intimidation by modernizing a storage site which could host nuclear-tipped missiles in Kaliningrad, a few dozen miles from Poland, a NATO nation. For its part, the Trump administration used the evolutions in the Russian nuclear arsenal as a pretext to call, in the February 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, for the introduction of new “low-yield” nuclear weapons into the US stockpiles.

Where will this escalation lead to? Isn’t it high time to launch a new negotiation that would allow the elimination of a dangerous echelon in the so-called balance of terror? Indeed, believing that the continued deployment of nuclear “tactical” nuclear weapons in European countries will ensure their security is illusory: the countries hosting them become potential targets; any use of such weapons would inevitably lead to a “strategic” response, and the nuclear catastrophe could not be prevented.

The 11-12 July 2018 NATO summit offers a unique opportunity for the European Allies to take the initiative again and demand from the US a negotiation that would lead to the withdrawal of both American and Russian tactical weapons from European soil. Being content with waiting until Russia “creates the conditions for disarmament” is no longer an option. If Russia requires putting on the table not only non-strategic but also deployed and non-deployed strategic weapons, antiballistic missile defence, and conventional armaments, this will offer as many more opportunities for compromise towards actual nuclear risk reduction in the interest of all.

Box : Nuclear Tactical Arsenals

(Source: Federation of American Scientists and Arms Control Association)

Russia

Out of the 6,850 nuclear weapons possessed by Russia, estimates about its non-strategic arsenal vary between 1,830 and 6,000, no official figure being provided. Contrary to strategic weapons, the tactical ones are not covered by the New START Treaty or the 1987 INF Treaty on medium- and intermediate-range nuclear missiles, but the 1991 and 1995 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNI) have led to the actual elimination of thousands of tactical weapons. Most of the remaining ones are now distributed between the Russian Air Force and Navy, and are declared as non-deployed, meaning kept in central storage, which confers them a relatively low operational level. Russia’s diplomatic position consists in accepting to negotiate on its non-strategic weapons once the US equivalent weapons have been repatriated to US soil.

United States

Within an official stockpile of 6,450 nuclear weapons, the US possesses an arsenal of about 500 non-strategic nuclear weapons, including some 150 deployed in Europe on the territories of five NATO nations (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey). The current B61 gravitation bombs are being modernized (at a cost of $11 billion). Their yield can vary between 0.3 and 360 kilotons (up to 24 times the yield of the Hiroshima bomb).