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.