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former IAEA Director-General

European Security

The NATO Summit: Recasting the Debate Over U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe

Oliver Meier is a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg and international representative of the Arms Control Association. Paul Ingram is executive director of the British American Security Information Council. The authors would like to thank the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for its support, which made research for this article possible.

By Oliver Meier and Paul Ingram

During their April 18-19 meeting, NATO foreign and defense ministers agreed on the draft text of the Deterrence and Defense Posture Review report. According to diplomatic sources, the draft contains several elements to enable continued discussion toward a new consensus on the role of nuclear weapons within the alliance.

For example, the allies are prepared to offer Russia a substantive dialogue to increase transparency with regard to tactical nuclear weapons. NATO also is likely to revise its nuclear doctrine to make it more consistent with the postures of the United Kingdom and the United States. The report—provided that the heads of state and government at the May 20-21 Chicago summit approve it—could therefore establish important guidance for future debate over NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements and for a stronger role for the alliance in nuclear arms control and disarmament.

Yet, some still maintain that the forward deployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe should not be reconsidered, citing worsening relations with Moscow, the ongoing Iranian nuclear crisis, and the constraints on defense budgets as a result of the global economic and financial crisis. In reality these developments only highlight the need for a long-overdue revision of NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements and for further reductions in the role of nuclear weapons.

In October 2009, the German government triggered an unprecedented debate within the alliance on the value of nuclear sharing arrangements by expressing a desire for withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Germany. For political, technical, and financial reasons, maintenance of the nuclear status quo is not feasible. Yet, consensus solutions to this problem were elusive at NATO’s Lisbon summit in November 2010 when a new Strategic Concept was adopted. The allies therefore agreed to conduct the posture review. The underlying debate continues, clearly exposing the problems and contradictions associated with NATO’s current nuclear weapons policy. The report that is to be adopted at the summit covers “the range of NATO’s strategic capabilities required, including NATO’s nuclear posture, and missile defence and other means of strategic deterrence and defence.”[1]

As observers have pointed out, the review for some time had been “proceeding with little real political engagement from national capitals and with almost no reference to the wider conditions of economic crisis and reduced defence resources.”[2] If the review were simply to reconfirm the formulaic compromise agreed at Lisbon, NATO would appear inflexible and stagnant, and the alliance would have fallen short of its self-proclaimed goal of encouraging the “creat[ion of] the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.”[3] Certainly, one recent paper argued, NATO could consider options to evolve its nuclear policy in the interests of NATO cohesion and contribution to global disarmament.[4] The leaders in Chicago need to demonstrate their leadership by moving in that direction.

NATO would be well advised not to skirt a debate over its nuclear posture. Below are some proposed elements for an agreement in Chicago to frame a meaningful discussion of nuclear issues within the alliance beyond the summit.

A Good Time to Talk

Some observers argue that “[t]he time has now come to reaffirm and for the time being [leave] alone” the conclusions reached in the Strategic Concept.[5] Yet, none of the arguments that “[t]his is not the right time to let down the nuclear guard”[6] stands up to scrutiny.

Deepening conflicts with Russia. Under NATO’s new Strategic Concept, changes in the alliance’s nuclear policy must be reciprocated by Russia. Reflecting particularly the concerns of central and eastern European countries, the document states that “[a]ny further steps” on NATO tactical nuclear weapons “must take into account the disparity with the greater Russian stockpiles of short-range nuclear weapons.”[7]

Since the Lisbon summit, NATO-Russian relations have deteriorated. One year later, in November 2011, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressed exasperation at the lack of progress by NATO and Russia in exploring cooperation on missile defense. Seeing NATO’s developing strategic missile defense plans as an emerging threat to Russia’s nuclear strategic deterrent, he said that Russia would have to respond, possibly by deploying “offensive weapons systems” such as the Iskander short-range missile in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.[8] He again voiced his displeasure just prior to meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in March 2012.[9] Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s return to the Russian presidency may reinforce this uncooperative approach.

Some believe that, in such an environment, cuts in arsenals would show weakness. From this perspective, nuclear sharing shows forthright unity of purpose and continuing faith in nuclear deterrence, thus reassuring NATO members. Removing U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe therefore would be a “concession” to Russia “that would put U.S. and allied interests in Europe and around the world at risk.”[10]

Yet, even without the 180 or so tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe, NATO will keep its vast military, political, and economic supremacy vis-à-vis Moscow. The military disparity will widen despite Russian intentions to increase defense spending and the implications of the financial crisis for NATO defense budgets. In 2010 the combined military spending of NATO countries was 20 times higher than Russia’s. Roughly the same ratio exists for procurement of military equipment and military research and development.[11] Russia’s declared intention to close the gaps with the West will remain an illusion.

NATO hedging against a resurgent Russia reinforces a confrontational NATO-Russian relationship and is self-fulfilling. At the most basic level, “tactical nuclear arms at military combat bases on both sides create uncertainty and concern about possible intentional use under unforeseen circumstances.”[12] This will be intensified by the planned modernization of NATO forces in the coming years. The new B61-12 smart bombs delivered by stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighters represent a significant improvement in the alliance’s nuclear war-fighting capabilities that could be seen by the Russians as intentional or used as an excuse to modernize its own tactical nuclear weapons.[13]

The presence of Russian nuclear weapons near NATO borders makes it easier for central and eastern European states to veto a more cooperative NATO approach toward Russia. Conversely, the continued presence in Europe of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons on foreign soil—a unique situation today—hands Russia a diplomatic advantage when it demands U.S. nuclear withdrawal as a precondition for including tactical nuclear weapons in talks for a follow-on agreement to the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The two sides are trapped in a deterrence relationship characterized by implicit threat.

Dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. Some observers question the wisdom of withdrawing tactical nuclear weapons from Europe when Iran appears to be pursuing a nuclear weapons capability.[14] U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe could deter a nuclear-armed Iran, according to this line of thinking. In addition, it is argued that Turkey’s involvement in nuclear sharing reduces the temptation for Ankara to develop its own nuclear weapons capability. Yet, Ankara has already retired its own dual-capable aircraft, indicating a lack of commitment to nuclear sharing. In any case, Turkey “would have enormous political problems in being seen as going along with” a NATO decision to employ nuclear weapons against Iran or Syria.[15] Turkish objections at the Lisbon summit in November 2010 even to referencing the Iranian missile threat as a justification for NATO’s missile defense plans suggest a preference for engaging its neighbor Iran rather than dropping into a deterrence posture.

The Turkish elite and public appear to be split on the security value of nuclear sharing arrangements. Turkish analysts and officials themselves argue that unless there is a breakdown in Turkey’s security relationship with the United States, “[n]ot even the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is likely to push Ankara to develop its own nuclear weapons.”[16] A recent opinion poll, however, suggests that around half of the Turkish public believes that Turkey should consider developing its own nuclear weapons if Iran does, rather than relying on NATO for protection.[17]

Moreover, U.S. nuclear weapons based in Turkey under NATO nuclear-sharing arrangements could become an issue at the international conference to be held in December on a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East. States in the region might be less willing to sign on to legally binding prohibitions of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons if potential competitors on their borders continue to host U.S. nuclear bombs.

The new Strategic Concept correctly finds that NATO “is affected by, and can affect, political and security developments beyond its borders” and states that the alliance wants to contribute “actively to arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament.”[18] It is precisely because of this impact beyond the alliance’s borders that NATO’s continuing commitment to nuclear deterrence undermines its nonproliferation objectives. Justice arguments play strongly in the debate about the legitimacy and effectiveness of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Iranians challenge what they see as double standards practiced by the nuclear-weapon states and within NATO, in particular, in seeking the benefits of nuclear deterrence while denying that presumed comfort to others. Even proponents of nuclear deterrence concede that as long as Iran has not developed nuclear weapons, “visibly putting Iran on the NATO agenda might reinforce [Iranian] hard-liners’ rhetoric that ‘the West is after us.’”[19]

Nuclear sharing and the financial crisis. The U.S. military footprint in Europe will shrink, both to rebalance the U.S. “global posture and presence, emphasizing the Pacific and the Middle East,”[20] and as a result of budgetary pressures. At the same time, European allies are contemplating their own reductions in defense spending. Worrying about Russia’s intentions, central and eastern European leaders are made uneasy by these two factors. Some observers argue that U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Europe offer good value for money because they are already deployed and “[t]he cost for the U.S. Air Force of the European nuclear mission, and of a nuclear capability for the successors to the fighter-bombers currently in service in European air forces will be limited.”[21]

Twenty years after the Cold War, these arguments are likely to gain little traction in those parliaments debating the necessary funds, in part because NATO itself has avoided public debate on the wisdom of further investment in nuclear sharing. Development of the F-35, assigned to replace most of the aging nuclear-capable aircraft in Europe, has run into serious delays and cost overruns, also affecting the nuclear version of the aircraft. The total cost estimate for the life extension program (LEP) of the 500 or so remaining B61 bombs has also recently grown from $4 billion to $5.2 billion, a considerable portion to be spent on the B61s deployed in Europe. Even the U.S. Congress is conducting a review of whether the scope of the B61 LEP is appropriate.[22]

The Obama administration has repeatedly stated its desire to increase reliance on non-nuclear means to accomplish regional deterrence. Consequently, some European governments in NATO also believe that advanced conventional capabilities and missile defenses “imply a reduced salience of nuclear weapons in the overall range of NATO capabilities.”[23] European NATO allies who share this view would expect their contribution to NATO’s emerging strategic missile defenses to be “balanced” by reduced spending on the nuclear elements in NATO’s defense posture. A curtailed debate on how spending for conventional weapons, missile defense, and nuclear elements of NATO’s defense posture should be balanced is likely to result in unnecessary investments in nuclear sharing arrangements that might be phased out in a few years anyway.

Implications for the Review

NATO leaders meeting in Chicago will be preoccupied with discussions on how to contain the quickly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan before, during, and after the pullout of NATO forces and with managing NATO-Russian relations against the background of Putin’s decision to stay away from Chicago. Yet, it would be a mistake to sweep the nuclear issues under the carpet. The posture review presents an important opportunity to put NATO’s nuclear policies on a sound footing by revising those aspects of NATO’s nuclear posture that are particularly divisive and chart the way into the future. Three principles should serve as a yardstick for a continuing review of NATO’s nuclear posture beyond Chicago.

Do no harm. A reaffirmation of the continued value of nuclear sharing for alliance cohesion and defense is not only unnecessary but also potentially harmful to alliance cohesion and to the current diplomatic round of the NPT. As former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) recently argued, “[M]aintaining the nuclear status quo in Europe…runs a high cost and unacceptable risk.”[24] A repetition of the pledge contained in the Strategic Concept to “ensure the broadest possible participation of Allies in collective defense planning on nuclear roles, in peacetime basing of nuclear forces, and in command, control and consultation arrangements” would ignore the broad opposition to current nuclear practices in a number of NATO states, including the ones in which some of the weapons are deployed, and is bound to provoke future conflicts over the modernization of nuclear hardware. Instead, to defuse such conflicts, NATO leaders at the Chicago summit should declare a moratorium on the modernization of the B61 bombs deployed in Europe and the procurement of new dual-capable aircraft.

Be coherent. NATO should declare that it will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states. NATO’s current declaratory policy resembles that of France, which does not restrict the possibility of nuclear retaliation against any state. Yet, Paris is the only NATO nuclear-weapon state that does not contribute any nuclear forces to the alliance’s integrated nuclear posture. By contrast, the two states that do assign nuclear forces to NATO—the United Kingdom and the United States—announced in 2010 that they would not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that comply with their nonproliferation obligations. “For most member states,” this situation “makes a new NATO declaratory policy necessary, so that the policies of the Alliance reflect those already adopted by these two states.”[25]

Because France is increasingly isolating itself within the alliance by opposing any changes to NATO nuclear policy, some in Paris have suggested that only those NATO members that participate in the alliance’s Nuclear Planning Group (NPG), that is, the 27 members other than France, should declare “at 27” a more restrictive nuclear posture. This would only highlight French isolation, undermine cohesion, and weaken the nonproliferation benefits of strengthened negative security assurances while failing to satisfy proponents of change, such as Germany. Berlin openly supports “the transfer of the principles contained in the [British and U.S.] negative security assurance to the Alliance context and will continue to do so, including in the context of the current NATO Deterrence and Defence Posture Review” and views the U.S. assurances as “an important step towards strengthening non-proliferation.”[26]

Be forward-looking. Most importantly, the nuclear posture arising from the review has to be sustainable and has to support NATO’s goal of “reinforcing arms control and…promoting disarmament.”[27] At a minimum, NATO should give its explicit blessing to U.S. negotiators as they propose reductions or elimination of tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe in their talks with Russia, but NATO can do more. The alliance’s new arms control body, the WMD Control and Disarmament Committee, has developed a set of potential transparency measures on tactical nuclear weapons, and the Obama administration would like “to use these ideas as the basis for detailed discussions with Russia on concrete steps we can take in this area.”[28] As a concrete transparency measure, NATO could unilaterally declare its total arsenal of nuclear weapons deployed in Europe and in which countries they are deployed. Going one step further, releasing information on all weapons assigned to NATO, including British and U.S. strategic warheads on submarines, could help “to convince those NATO members looking for nuclear reassurance that NATO has a credible, flexible and survivable nuclear posture beyond the heavily disputed B-61 arsenal.”[29] NATO also should be more ambitious with regard to withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe. Nunn has recently proposed “[t]o proceed with further reductions of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, with the announced target of completing the consolidation of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to the United States within five years, with the final timing and pace to be determined by broad political and security developments between NATO and Russia, including but not limited to their tactical nuclear posture.”[30]

Finally, institutional issues matter. As Acting U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller recently pointed out, “the process of adapting the Alliance to a changing world will be on-going,”[31] and the political review of nuclear policy therefore should not be terminated in Chicago on the basis that agreement is elusive. If the issue is simply sent back to the NPG and its senior advisory body, the High Level Group (HLG), for implementation, officials will let the issue drift. The guardians of the arsenal at NATO headquarters in Brussels certainly cannot be expected to be a force for change. A continual review of NATO nuclear policies beyond Chicago must take place at the political level and include clear milestones for decision-making. The Chicago summit could decide that the North Atlantic Council, meeting at the level of foreign and defense ministers, should annually receive a report based, for example, on contributions from the new WMD committee and the NPG/HLG on possible changes to NATO’s nuclear posture. The meeting could take place in conjunction with a public seminar on NATO nuclear policy to which major stakeholders are invited and where findings of the reports are debated.

The indications are that NATO leaders in Chicago will be agreeing on a text that frames a continued debate on the role and posture of nuclear weapons within the alliance, based on the principles outlined by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Tallinn, Estonia, in 2010, and opens up the opportunity to discuss these issues with the Russians. The leaders would do well to recognize that it is not discussion of nuclear issues that causes rifts and strains but resistance to change and evolution. Even if the posture review does not live up to the hopes many have had for it, it can create the framework for a constructive process that takes into account opinion from across the spectrum and helps the alliance break free from the Cold War legacy holding it back.


Oliver Meier is a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg and international representative of the Arms Control Association.

Paul Ingram is executive director of the British American Security Information Council. The authors would like to thank the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for its support, which made research for this article possible.


ENDNOTES


1. NATO, “Lisbon Summit Declaration,” November 20, 2010, para. 30 (adopted November 19, 2010).

2. Simon Lunn and Ian Kearns, “NATO’s Deterrence and Defence Posture Review: A Status Report,” ELN NATO Policy Brief, No. 1 (February 2012), p. 22.

3. NATO, “Active Engagement, Modern Defence,” 2010 (hereinafter 2010 Strategic Concept).

4. George Perkovich et al., “Looking Beyond the Chicago Summit: Nuclear Weapons in Europe and the Future of NATO,” The Carnegie Papers, April 2012.

5. George Robertson, “The Chicago Summit Has More Urgent Priorities Than Nuclear Theology,” ELN Chicago Forum Papers, March 21, 2012.

6.  Bruno Tertrais, “Defining the Right Mix of Capabilities: The Irreplaceable Role of NATO Nuclear Arrangements,” in Managing Change: NATO’s Partnerships and Deterrence in a Globalized World (2011), p. 9.

7. NATO, 2010 Strategic Concept, para. 26.

8. Dmitry Medvedev, “Statement in Connection With the Situation Concerning the NATO Countries’ Missile Defence System in Europe,” November 23, 2012, http://eng.kremlin.ru/news/3115.

9. Dmitry Medvedev, “Speech at a Conference Organised by the Russian Council for International Affairs, Euro-Atlantic Security Community: Myth or Reality?” March 23, 2012.

10. Baker Spring and Michaela Bendikova, “The United States Must Not Concede the Russian Position on Tactical Nuclear Weapons,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo, No. 3491 (February 8, 2012).

11. Michael Brzoska et al., “Prospects for Arms Control in Europe,” Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, November 2011, p. 6, http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/id/ipa/08718.pdf.

12. Global Zero NATO-Russia Commission, “Removing U.S. and Russian Tactical Nuclear Weapons From European Combat Bases,” February 2012, p. 3.

13. The B61-12’s accuracy is secret, but its tail kit is similar in design to that of the Joint Direct Attack Munition, which has an internal navigation system that is aided by a global positioning system. See www.fas.org/blog/ssp/2011/06/b61-12.php.

14. Oliver Thränert, “Raketentest: Atommacht Iran? Der Preis wäre hoch” [Missile test: Nuclear power Iran? The price would be high], Tagesspiegel, January 3, 2012, http://www.tagesspiegel.de/meinung/raketentest-atommacht-iran-der-preis-waere-hoch/6013448.html.

15. Edmond Seay, “NATO‘s Incredible Nuclear Strategy: Why U.S. Weapons in Europe Deter No One,” Arms Control Today, November 2011.

16. Sinan Ülgen, “Turkey and the Bomb,” The Carnegie Papers, February 2012, p. 1.

17. “Turks Favor Nukes If Iran Have Them Too, Reveals Poll,” Al Arabiya News, March 28, 2012, http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/03/28/203822.html. In the poll, only 8 percent appeared to have faith in the NATO strategic umbrella for Turkey in relation to Iran, calling into question the commonly held assumption that the presence of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Turkey discourages Turkey from developing its own nuclear weapons program.

18. NATO, 2010 Strategic Concept, para. 4c.

19. Bruno Tertrais, “A Nuclear Iran and NATO,” Survival, Vol. 52, No. 6 (December 2010-January 2011), p. 57.

20. Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense, “Statement on Defense Strategic Guidance,” January 5, 2012, www.defense.gov/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=1643.

21. Tertrais, “Defining the Right Mix of Capabilities,” p. 6.

22. Project on Government Oversight: “POGO to Panetta: U.S. Taxpayers Shouldn’t Bear the Cost of B61 Bombs Deployed in Europe,” February 1, 2012, http://www.pogo.org/pogo-files/letters/nuclear-security-safety/nss-dod-20110201-pogo-panetta-taxpayers-shouldnt-bear-cost-of-b61-bombs-europe.html.

23. Rolf Nikel, “The Future of NATO’s Nuclear Weapons,” Nuclear Policy Paper, No. 9 (November 2011), p. 2, http://tacticalnuclearweapons.ifsh.de/pdf/Nuclear_Policy_Paper_No9.pdf, p. 2.

24. Helmut Schmidt and Sam Nunn, “Toward a World Without Nukes,” The New York Times, April 13, 2012.

25. Malcolm Chalmers, “Words That Matter? NATO Declaratory Policy and the DDPR,” in Reducing Nuclear Risks in Europe: A Framework for Action, ed. Steven Andreasen and Isabelle Williams (Washington, D.C.: Nuclear Threat Initiative, 2011), p. 57.

26. “Further Developing German Nuclear Disarmament Policy—Strengthening and Developing Germany’s Role in Non-proliferation,” Bundestag printed paper No. 17/7226, February 29, 2012, http://tacticalnuclearweapons.ifsh.de/pdf/BT%20120228%20Drs%20177226%20English.pdf.

27. NATO, 2010 Strategic Concept, para. 26.

28. Rose Gottemoeller, “European Security and the Next Steps in Arms Control,” February 29, 2012, www.pism.pl/files/?id_plik=9611.

29. Karl-Heinz Kamp, “NATO‘s Nuclear Weapons in Europe: Beyond ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’” NATO Defense College Research Paper, No. 61 (September 2010), p. 12.

30. Sam Nunn, “The Race Between Cooperation and Catastrophe” in Reducing Nuclear Risks in Europe: A Framework for Action, ed. Steven Andreasen and Isabelle Williams (Washington, D.C.: Nuclear Threat Initiative, 2011), pp. 21-22.

31. Gottemoeller, “European Security and the Next Steps in Arms Control.”

UK Takes Initial Steps to Replace Trident

The United Kingdom approved the initial investment in its next generation of nuclear submarines and chose a design for the new fleet.

Robert Golan-Vilella

The United Kingdom has approved the preliminary investment in its next generation of Trident nuclear submarines and selected a design for the submarines, British Defence Secretary Liam Fox told the House of Commons last month.

This “initial gate” investment represents the first of two decisions that must be made for the replacement to go forward. The second (“main gate”) decision to begin constructing the submarines is scheduled for 2016, as the British government outlined in its strategic defense review last October. (See ACT, November 2010.)

In a May 18 speech, Fox said the new fleet of submarines “will be powered by a new generation of nuclear propulsion system,” which “will allow our submarines to deliver our nuclear deterrent capability well into the 2060s if required.” The government also agreed on the outline of the submarine’s design and the amount of material and parts that will need to be purchased prior to the main gate decision, he added.

Fox explained the United Kingdom’s continued need for a nuclear capability by saying that “we cannot dismiss the possibility that a major direct nuclear threat to the U.K. might re-emerge.” In remarks to the House of Commons that same day, British Prime Minister David Cameron called London’s nuclear weapons “the ultimate insurance policy against blackmail or attack by other countries.” The United Kingdom’s entire nuclear arsenal of fewer than 160 operational nuclear warheads is deployed aboard four submarines armed with Trident ballistic missiles; this number is slated to fall to no more than 120 by the mid-2020s.

In advance of the main gate decision, the government will conduct a review of “the costs, feasibility, and credibility of alternative systems and postures” to the proposed replacement plan, Fox said. The review is to be led by Nick Harvey, the minister of state for the armed forces and a member of the Liberal Democrats.

The Liberal Democrats, the Conservative Party’s partners in the coalition government that assumed power last year, generally oppose the current plan and favor greater steps toward nuclear disarmament. In contrast to the current plan of maintaining “continuous at-sea deterrence” based on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, the review will consider options such as putting nuclear warheads on cruise missiles, Harvey told the Financial Times May 24. This would be cheaper and could provide a future government with more flexibility, Harvey said.

Fox estimated the cost of the submarine replacement to be 20-25 billion pounds ($33-41 billion), of which approximately 3 billion pounds is scheduled to be spent before 2016.

 

Reducing the Role of Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Europe: Perspectives and Proposals on the NATO Policy Debate

NATO Posture Review Takes Shape

Discussions among NATO member states and staff on the format and content of a “deterrence and defense posture review” are making slow progress, diplomats and officials involved in the process said last month. It is expected that an informal meeting of defense ministers March 10-11 in Brussels will finalize the terms of reference for that review, which was agreed at the November 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon, the sources said.

Oliver Meier

Discussions among NATO member states and staff on the format and content of a “deterrence and defense posture review” are making slow progress, diplomats and officials involved in the process said last month. It is expected that an informal meeting of defense ministers March 10-11 in Brussels will finalize the terms of reference for that review, which was agreed at the November 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon, the sources said. (See ACT, December 2010.)

According to these sources, it seems likely that the mandate of the posture review will be broad, covering the balance between nuclear and conventional forces as well as missile defense elements in NATO’s defense posture. The proposal by some member states, advanced ahead of the adoption of a new Strategic Concept at the Lisbon summit, to conduct a narrow review, focusing on NATO’s nuclear posture only, appears to be off the table. (See ACT, October 2010.)

NATO’s posture review could be conducted in two phases, the sources said. A consultative phase, lasting several months, would provide an opportunity for member states to brainstorm on the alliance’s future deterrence posture. Drafting of a possible report, to be adopted at the spring 2012 NATO summit in the United States, would begin after the June 8-9 NATO ministerial meetings. According to officials, the deterrence review is likely to be conducted by the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s principal political body, and might be accompanied by a public diplomacy effort, including seminars that involve nongovernmental experts.

Discussions of the format and purpose of a new arms control committee, whose creation was agreed at the Lisbon summit, have turned out to be even more controversial, the sources said. Some, including France, favor a review that is limited in time and scope and is tied to the posture review. Others, including Germany, prefer a broad, ongoing, stand-alone review. According to the sources, there is also disagreement as to whether an arms control committee would be chaired by a NATO official, a member-state representative, or both. These disagreements might prevent a March agreement on the terms of reference for the arms control committee, the sources said.

 

UK, France Sign Nuclear Collaboration Treaty

Robert Golan-Vilella

The United Kingdom and France have agreed to cooperate in maintaining their nuclear weapons stockpiles, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said last month in a joint press conference.

The Nov. 2 announcement came at the conclusion of a one-day bilateral summit as Cameron and Sarkozy signed two treaties committing their countries to a deeper military partnership. One pact addresses a broad range of defense and security issues. The other states that the two parties will cooperate in nuclear weapons safety and security, stockpile certification, and “counter nuclear or radiological terrorism.”

Under the terms of the latter treaty, the United Kingdom and France will build two joint nuclear research facilities. At one, in Valduc, France, the two countries will perform hydrodynamic experiments on their nuclear warheads. The facility will “use radiography to measure the performance of materials at extremes of temperature and pressure,” British Minister of Defence Liam Fox told the House of Commons Nov. 2. “This enables us to model the performance and safety of the nuclear weapons in our stockpile without undertaking nuclear explosive tests,” he said.

The Valduc site “shall comprise areas for solely national and joint use,” the nuclear cooperation treaty states. Each nation “shall conduct all the trials needed to support its national programmes…without scrutiny from” the other. In addition, each country’s national area is to be staffed by its own personnel, and access to that area “shall be subject to prior approval” by its own national authorities.

The second facility, which will be built at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston, England, will pursue “development work to underpin the technologies used in the [Valduc] facility throughout its operational life,” according to the treaty. No fissile material is to be used in the experiments performed at this location, the treaty says.

In addition to nuclear stockpile management, the two powers agreed to “develop jointly some of the equipment and technologies for the next generation of nuclear submarines,” a joint declaration from the summit said. In non-nuclear areas, the two countries pledged to develop a joint expeditionary force, allow each country’s aircraft to operate off the other’s aircraft carriers, create a framework for addressing cybersecurity issues, and work together to build a new generation of unmanned aerial vehicles, according to the summit declaration.

In his press conference with Sarkozy, Cameron emphasized Paris and London’s common interests as the driving force behind the treaties. He said that the two countries “are natural partners; the third- and the fourth-largest defense spenders in the world, both with nuclear responsibilities and both with permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council.” Sarkozy concurred, stating that “we have common commitments and we will shoulder them together.”

Cameron also highlighted the economic incentives for increased collaboration, saying the policy shift “is about practical, hard-headed cooperation between sovereign countries. It is about sharing development and equipment costs, eliminating unnecessary duplication, coordinating logistics, and aligning our research programs.”

Indeed, the move comes just as both nations are facing severe financial pressures at home. Two weeks prior to concluding the agreements with France, the British government unveiled its Strategic Defence and Security Review, in which it announced that it would cut defense spending by 8 percent in real terms over the next four years. (See ACT, November 2010.) Commentators in the international media immediately identified the need to cut costs as the principal motivating force for the treaties, dubbing the new partnership “the entente frugale.” The term is a play on the Entente Cordiale, an early 20th century agreement between Paris and London that resolved several long-standing disputes and reduced tensions between the powers.

When asked how much money would be saved as a result of the treaties, a spokesman for Cameron said that the British government did not currently have an estimate and that many of the details would be worked out over the next year, according to a press briefing summary from Cameron’s office.

The prescribed duration of the nuclear treaty is the life cycle of the Valduc and Aldermaston facilities, which “shall be 50 years or until such other time as mutually agreed by the Parties,” the agreement says. The defense and security treaty is to remain in force indefinitely.

 

Vienna Document 1999

August 2010

Press Contact: Jeff Abramson, Deputy Director, (202) 463-8270 x109

Updated: August 2010

The Vienna Document is a confidence- and security- building measure in which members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) agree to inspections and data exchanges in order to increase transparency of their conventional forces. With Russia’s suspension of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE Treaty) in 2007 and subsequent loss of transparency around conventional forces, the politically binding procedures and related reports associated with the document have become more important.

Background: The Vienna Document encompasses the goals of the Helsinki Final Act Decalogue of 1975 and incorporates them into a politically binding document. The Helsinki Final Act principles created the initial confidence- and security- building measures that would be elaborated upon, first in the Stockholm Document (1986) and later in the first Vienna Document. The first document, Vienna Document 1990, would have successors in Vienna Documents 1992, 1994, and 1999. All of the Vienna Documents have sought to strengthen the transparency and openness in the OSCE area.

Helsinki Final Act Decalogue[1]

1     Sovereign equality, respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty

2     Refraining from the threat or use of force

3     Inviolability of frontiers

4     Territorial integrity of States

5     Peaceful settlement of disputes

6     Non-intervention in internal affairs

7     Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief

8     Equal rights and self-determination of peoples

9     Co-operation among States

10   Fulfillment in good faith of obligations under international law

 

 

Document Status: Vienna Document implementation is discussed weekly at the Forum for Security Co-operation (an OSCE body) and at annual meetings in Vienna.  Signatories to the document are the fifty-five member states of the OSCE. [2]

During the most recent Annual Implementation Assessment Meeting (AIAM), held March 2-3, 2010, the OSCE’s Conflict Prevention Centre reported that the Vienna Document’s “overall implementation level has remained relatively stable and high." [3] Per the Meeting’s Consolidated Summary, although the number of inspections and evaluations fell in 2009 from their 2008 levels, the number was still above the five-year average. There is some speculation that the economic conditions facing Vienna Document countries could play a part in the lower numbers.

The 2010 State Department report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, which considered treaty and agreement compliance from January 1, 2004 to December 31, 2008, found that “compliance with VD99 has been good.” [4] The report acknowledged that some states did not submit their information for the December meeting but that “most” of the States eventually submitted the required paperwork.

In regards to the sharing of information under the Vienna Document, there was conversation at the March 2010 AIAM that changes may need to be made to the document because of new technology, capabilities, and military structures that have not been accounted for.

Information Exchange: Under the Vienna Document, countries agree to an Annual Exchange of Military Information where information regarding “military forces concerning the military organization, manpower and major weapon and equipment systems” will be shared with other member states. [5] A country that plans to change the structure of their military forces for a period longer than 21 days (such as increasing the size of a combat unit) reports the change to other states. States also share information about their weapon systems and if there are plans to deploy new systems (if so, countries share information about these systems). Under Article II, countries are also expected to provide information regarding their defense planning.  Under a general considerations report, a state provides information regarding their military structure (including specific unit and formation information), major weapons and equipment systems, and their hardware. The specific equipment that is covered by the Vienna Document can be found in Article I.

Year

Number of Submitted Reports (General Considerations)[6]

2009

Not Available

2008

55

2007

54

2006

51

2005

53

 

Year

Number of Submitted Reports (Defense Planning)

2009

47

2008

41

2007

47

2006

40

2005

45

The Vienna Document also says that states should inform other states if “certain military activities” will take place, which means a military activity will be subject to notification whenever it involves at any time during the activity:

  • at least 9,000 troops, including support troops, or
  • at least 250 battle tanks, or
  • at least 500 armored combat vehicles, as defined in Annex III, paragraph (2), or
  • at least 250 self-propelled and towed artillery pieces, mortars and multiple rocket-launchers (100 mm calibre and above). [7]

States also can invite other member states to militarily significant actions for observation purposes. [8] There are some constraints on states, including limits on the number of exercises that can be carried out within a specific timeframe under certain conditions. [9]

If a Vienna Document state has concerns about a militarily significant action, they can request an explanation of the action from the party responsible. If there are concerns after an explanation is offered, the concerned state can request a meeting with the acting party.  Participation in the meeting will be open to any states interested in the action. Either party can also request a meeting of all states, which would be conducted as a joint Permanent Council and Forum for Security Cooperation meeting, where recommendations from states will be considered.

Process: The Vienna Document 1999 encourages countries to host visits to military facilities, create military contacts, and hold joint exercises and demonstrations of military equipment as ways of increasing confidence between states. [10] By November 15, states are expected to submit a schedule of prior notification military activities for the next year.  According to the Consolidated Summary of the 19th Annual Implementation Assessment Meeting , held March 3-4, 2009, “a total of 109 inspection visits in 2008 had resulted in more than 1,000 arms control personnel having the opportunity to meet their counterparts and improve their relations.” [11]

Year

Number of Evaluation Visits [12]

2009

46

2008

41

2007

55

 

Year

Number of Countries Hosting Evaluation Visits

2009

Not Available

2008

44

2007

33

 

Year

Number of Inspection Visits

2009

96

2008

109

2007

88

Under the Document, states can host three inspections on their territory per year and do not have to exceed that limit if they do not wish.  Inspection teams observe notable military activities.  In addition to inspection visits, there are also evaluation visits, which verify data that is part of the information exchange.  A state must host at least one and no more than 15 evaluation visits a year (number of visits is determined by number of units). [13]

Article XI calls for an Annual Implementation Assessment Meeting where states will have the opportunity to discuss questions of implementation, operations, and questions that may have arisen from information that has been exchanged.  The meeting, hosted by the Forum for Security Cooperation, is also an opportunity to discuss confidence- and security- building measures.  If a state has not offered their data at the Annual Exchange of Military Information, held no later than December 15, they are expected to offer an explanation as to why it has not been submitted and an expected date for contribution.

Amendments to Vienna Document 1999: A May 19, 2010 decision by the Forum for Security Cooperation (FSC.DEC/1/10) created a procedure for continuous updating of the Vienna Document, under which decisions that update document text will be called Vienna Document Plus. [14] Every five years the Vienna Document will be reissued with the changes from “Plus” incorporated.  This will not delay the entry into force of changes, which will be effective immediately, unless expressly stated otherwise.  Decisions in Vienna Document Plus will supersede those of Vienna Document 1999 as they are the most recent.

-Researched and prepared by Valerie Pacer



[1] For a more detailed description of the Decalogue, see European Navigator’s explanation http://www.ena.lu/helsinki_decalogue_august_1975-2-19193

[2] OSCE member states are: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, and Uzbekistan

[3] Consolidated Summary of the 2010 Annual Implementation Assessment Meeting (AIAM)

[4] See “Vienna Document 1999 on the Negotiations on Confidence- and Security- Building Measures (page 36) ”http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/documents/july2010compliancereport072710.pdf

[5] See Article I “Annual Exchange of Military Information” for specific information that is exchanged: http://www.osce.org/documents/fsc/1999/11/4265_en.pdf

[6] Numbers of Submissions can be found in the 2009 AIAM Consolidated Summary http://www.osce.org/documents/fsc/2009/03/37422_en.pdf, 2010 AIAM Consolidated Summary and at http://dtirp.dtra.mil/TIC/synopses/gemi.cfm

[7] Vienna Document 1999, Article V

[8] See Article VI “Observation of Certain Military Activities” for an explanation of observation procedures.

[9] See Article VIII “Constraining Provisions” for thresholds and limits of activities.

[10] See Articles III “Risk Reduction” and IV “Contacts” of VD99 for recommendations.

[11] Consolidated Summary of the 19th Annual Implementation Assessment Meeting 2009 http://www.osce.org/documents/html/pdftohtml/37422_en.pdf.html , pg. 49

[12] Numbers of evaluation and inspections can be found in the AIAM Consolidated Summary 2009 http://www.osce.org/documents/fsc/2009/03/37422_en.pdf and AIAM Consolidated Summary 2010.

[13] See Article IX “Compliance and Verification” for an explanation of measures, including inspections and evaluations.

[14] “Decision No.1/10 Establishing a Procedure for Incorporating Relevant FSC Decisions Into the Vienna Document” (FSC.DEC/1/10) http://www.osce.org/documents/fsc/2010/05/44706_en.pdf

Conventional Arms Issues

Fact Sheet Categories:

Reassessing the Role of U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Turkey

NATO is revising its Strategic Concept; the alliance is due to complete work on the document in November. A key issue in the revision is the deployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe as part of the alliance’s policy of extended nuclear deterrence. Although Turkey has long been in agreement with its allies on the value of these forward deployments, it may soon find itself in a delicate position on the question of how to continue the policy effectively.

With other NATO countries such as Luxembourg and Norway supporting them, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands have indicated a desire to reassess the case for continued deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons on their territories. Should these countries advocate withdrawal of U.S. weapons from Europe, Turkish decision-makers might conclude that two fundamental principles of the alliance, namely solidarity and burden sharing, have been seriously weakened. Those principles have been the basis for Turkey’s agreement, since the early 1960s, to the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons on its soil.

Mustafa Kibaroglu

NATO is revising its Strategic Concept; the alliance is due to complete work on the document in November. A key issue in the revision is the deployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe as part of the alliance’s policy of extended nuclear deterrence. Although Turkey has long been in agreement with its allies on the value of these forward deployments, it may soon find itself in a delicate position on the question of how to continue the policy effectively.

With other NATO countries such as Luxembourg and Norway supporting them, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands have indicated a desire to reassess the case for continued deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons on their territories. Should these countries advocate withdrawal of U.S. weapons from Europe, Turkish decision-makers might conclude that two fundamental principles of the alliance, namely solidarity and burden sharing, have been seriously weakened. Those principles have been the basis for Turkey’s agreement, since the early 1960s, to the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons on its soil.

The issue is contentious within NATO, which makes its decisions by consensus—an approach that was reaffirmed by the alliance’s foreign ministers at an April meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, and by an Experts Group report released in May.

Although final decisions on the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons probably are not imminent, the debate has already been joined, and Turkey should be an active participant. If Turkey continues to sit on the sidelines of that debate, as it has done until now, it could find itself in an uncomfortable spot: A decision to remove the U.S. weapons from Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands would likely leave Turkey and Italy as the only NATO members with foreign nuclear weapons on their soil.[1] Such a situation would put pressure on Turkey to reverse its long-standing policy of hosting U.S. nuclear weapons on its territory—even more so if the U.S. nuclear weapons are removed from Italy as well. Turkey’s calculus must include an additional element because it has Middle Eastern neighbors that are a source of concern to some allies but with whom Turkey is developing increasingly close diplomatic ties after a long period of animosity that extended beyond the end of Cold War rivalry.

The most sensible course for Turkey is to support the efforts of other host nations to create a consensus within the alliance that would lead to a withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe. That step would help Ankara to continue cultivating relationships with its non-European neighbors and could be achieved without undermining extended nuclear deterrence.

NATO’s New Strategic Concept

Since 1999, when NATO last revised its Strategic Concept, the world has undergone dramatic changes and witnessed tragic events, such as the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, followed by others in Bali, Istanbul, Madrid, London, and Amman. Since the September 11 attacks, NATO, while maintaining its identity as a collective security organization, has accelerated the pace at which it is transforming itself from one focused on defending a particular geographical area against a well-known enemy to one that would be capable of dealing with emerging threats such as international terrorism, which may manifest itself in different forms and almost anywhere in the world.

This process of transformation within NATO has called into question the relevance of the 1999 Strategic Concept to the challenges and threats that the allied countries are facing now and are likely to confront in the future.

The Strategic Concept has therefore been under revision since the alliance summit convened in Strasbourg/Kehl, on April 3-4, 2009. At the summit meeting, NATO heads of state and government tasked the secretary-general with assembling and leading a broad-based group of qualified experts who would lay the groundwork for the new Strategic Concept with the active involvement of NATO’s highest decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council.[2] The report, “NATO 2020: Assured Security; Dynamic Engagement,” was released May 17.

The details of the new Strategic Concept are not yet final, but the Experts Group report and media accounts of the ongoing deliberations give an idea of the general principles that are likely to govern the new document. For instance, during their April 22-23 meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, NATO foreign ministers discussed ways to modernize the organization and held talks on the new Strategic Concept. In those discussions, they shared the view that “the new concept must reaffirm NATO’s essential and enduring foundations: the political bond between Europe and North America, and the commitment to defend each other against attack,” according to a NATO press release.[3]

More specifically, concerning the nuclear strategy of the alliance, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said that, “in a world where nuclear weapons exist, NATO needs a credible, effective and safely managed deterrent.”[4]

That statement suggests that nuclear weapons are likely to retain their central role in NATO’s forthcoming Strategic Concept. That would satisfy Turkey’s expectations; Ankara is looking f or the continuation of extended deterrence, which has traditionally relied on U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Europe.

Nevertheless, the positions of the European allies are not fully compatible with that of Turkey. Some western European allies have expressed strong reservations about the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons on their territories, while some central and eastern European allies still support the deployment of these weapons in Europe as a visible sign of U.S. security guarantees for Europe.

The foreign ministers of Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Norway stated in a February 26 letter to Rasmussen that they “welcome the initiative taken by President Obama to strive toward substantial reductions in strategic armaments, and to move towards reducing the role of nuclear weapons and seek peace and security in a world without nuclear weapons.”[5] The letter emphasized that there should be discussions in NATO as to what the allies “can do to move closer to this overall political objective.”[6]

Some central and eastern European allies of NATO attach great importance to the continuation of the extended nuclear deterrence strategy of the alliance and the forward deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons, which they consider to provide credible assurances against the potential threat that they perceive from Russia.[7] There is unanimous support for including tactical nuclear weapons in the next round of nuclear arms control, and there are also views suggesting concomitant withdrawal of all Russian and U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.[8]

However, even the central and eastern European countries that favor the continuation of nuclear sharing do not want to commit themselves to any obligation to host U.S. nuclear weapons on their territories.[9] This was, in fact, an agreed-on principle within the alliance at the time of their admission so as not to provoke Russia, which was adamantly opposing the eastward expansion of the alliance throughout the 1990s and beyond.

According to the terms of agreement of the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997, which was negotiated prior to the admittance of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland to NATO, the alliance declared it had “no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members, nor any need to change any aspect of NATO’s nuclear posture or nuclear policy.”[10] Hence, it would be fair to assume that if nuclear weapons are withdrawn from Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, there are no new candidates to take them.

Should this be the case, Turkey might have to revise its stance vis-à-vis the U.S. nuclear weapons on its soil.[11]

U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Turkey

Turkey has hosted U.S. nuclear weapons since intermediate-range Jupiter missiles were deployed there in 1961 as a result of decisions made at the alliance’s 1957 Paris summit. Those missiles were withdrawn in 1963 in the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis. Since then, no nuclear missiles have been stationed in Turkey. The only nuclear weapons that have been deployed are the bombs that would be delivered by U.S. F-16s or Turkish F-100, F-104, and F-4 “Phantom” aircraft at air bases in Eskisehir, Malatya (Erhac), Ankara (Akinci/Murted), and Balikesir.[12] All such weapons, whether on U.S. or Turkish aircraft, have been under the custody of the U.S. Air Force.

Turkey still hosts these U.S. tactical nuclear weapons on its territory, albeit in much smaller numbers.[13] They are limited to one location, the Incirlik base near Adana on the eastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey.[14] All other nuclear weapons have been withdrawn from the bases mentioned above.[15] Moreover, the Turkish air force no longer has any operational link with the remaining tactical nuclear weapons deployed at Incirlik.[16] F-104s have not been in service since 1994. F-4s are still in service after modernization of some 54 of them by Israeli Aerospace Industries in 1997. Yet, only the F-16 “Fighting Falcons” of the Turkish air force participate in NATO`s nuclear strike exercises known as “Steadfast Noon,” during which crews are trained in loading, unloading, and employing B61 tactical nuclear weapons.[17] The Turkish aircraft in these exercises serve as a non-nuclear air defense escort rather than a nuclear strike force.[18]

There were two main reasons for Turkey to host U.S. nuclear weapons. First and foremost has been the deterrent value of these weapons against the threat posed by the nuclear and conventional weapons capabilities of its enormous neighbor, the Soviet Union, during the Cold War. Similarly, after the Cold War, these weapons were believed by Turkish military commanders to constitute a credible deterrent against rival neighbors in the Middle East, such as Iran, Iraq, and Syria, which used to have unconventional weapons capabilities as well as delivery vehicles such as ballistic missiles.[19]

A second reason for Turkey to host U.S. nuclear weapons has been the burden-sharing principle within the alliance. Turkey has strongly subscribed to this principle since it joined NATO in 1952. In fact, Turkey had already displayed unequivocally its willingness to share the burden of defending the interests of the Western alliance by committing a significant number of troops to the Korean War in 1950, even before NATO membership was in sight.

Yet, if Turkey is likely to be left as the only country, or one of only two countries, where U.S. nuclear weapons will still be deployed after a possible withdrawal of these weapons from other allies and no other NATO country will be willing to assume the burden of hosting nuclear weapons, Turkey may very well insist that the weapons be sent back to the United States. From Turkey’s current standpoint, this would not be the desired outcome of the current deliberations within the alliance.

According to a Turkish official, the principle of burden sharing should not be diluted. To live up to their commitment to solidarity, which was reaffirmed in Tallinn, the five countries that currently host these weapons should continue to do so for the foreseeable future, the official said.[20]

Deterrence Against Whom?

Because of the view that NATO’s deterrent will be more credible with the presence of forward-deployed U.S. nuclear weapons in the allied territories in Europe, Turkish diplomats believe that the burden of hosting these weapons should continue to be shared collectively among five allies, as has been the case over the last several decades.

Even if all of Turkey’s allies accept this proposal and act accordingly, Turkey will still face a dilemma in its foreign and security policies if it sees the hosting of U.S. nuclear weapons as the only way for it to fulfill its burden-sharing obligations.

Ankara’s continuing support for the presence of the U.S. weapons on Turkish territory could be justified only if there were a threat from the military capabilities of Turkey’s neighbors, the two most significant of which would be Iran and Syria, and if the Western allies shared that threat assessment. There can be no other meaningful scenario that would justify Turkey’s policy of retaining U.S. nuclear weapons on its territory as well as leaving the door open for the deployment of U.S. missile defenses in Turkey in the future. Recent trends, however, appear to be moving from such a threat assessment by Turkey. Over the last few years, Turkey has experienced an unprecedented rapprochement with its Middle Eastern neighbors.

Last year, Turkey held joint ministerial cabinet meetings with Iraq in October and Syria in December. Until recently, Turkey had treated both countries as foes rather than friends. These meetings have produced a significant number of protocols, memoranda of understanding, and other documents on a wide array of issue areas including the thorniest subjects, such as ways and means of dealing with terrorism effectively and using the region’s scarce water resources more equitably.

Moreover, these high-level meetings resulted in the lifting of the visa requirement for Turkish citizens traveling to Syria and vice versa. That action has paved the way to an opening of the borders between the two countries; the borders had stayed closed for decades due to the presence of large numbers of heavy land mines on both sides. The mines will soon be cleaned up with a view to opening huge land areas to agriculture.

In addition to improvements in bilateral relations with its immediate neighbors, Turkey has become more involved in wider Middle Eastern political affairs than it ever has been since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. A key part of this regional involvement is mediation efforts between Israel and Syria. Another element is a willingness to take on a similar role in Iran’s dispute with the international community over the nature and scope of Tehran’s nuclear program, which is generally considered by Turkey’s NATO allies to have the potential for weaponization and thus further proliferation in the region. Top Turkish political and military officials have suggested on various occasions that the most promising way out of the conflict in the longer term would be the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. Against that background, the continued insistence of the Turkish security elite on hosting U.S. nuclear weapons has drawn criticism from Turkey’s Middle Eastern neighbors.[21]

Some of these neighbors, such as Iran and Syria, criticize Turkey’s policy of retaining nuclear weapons because they see the weapons as being directed against them.[22] Others in the Arab world, such as Egypt, portray these weapons as a symbol of Western imperialism.

Turkey therefore will have to seriously reconsider its policy on U.S. nuclear weapons. For this to happen, a debate should take place in the country in various platforms, in closed as well as open forums, with the participation of experts, scholars, officials, and other concerned citizens.

There is a common belief in Turkey that the U.S. weapons constitute a credible deterrent against threats such as Iran’s nuclear program and the possible further proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region in response to Tehran’s program. Others contend that if Turkey sends the weapons back to the United States and Iran subsequently develops nuclear weapons, Turkey will have to develop its own such weapons. These observers argue that even though they are against the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons on Turkish soil in principle, the weapons’ presence in the country will keep Turkey away from such adventurous policies.[23] Similar views have also been expressed by foreign experts and analysts who are concerned about Turkey’s possible reactions to the developments in Iran’s nuclear capabilities in case U.S. nuclear weapons are withdrawn from Turkish territory.[24]

The negative effects of the weapons deployments on Turkish-Iranian relations need to be assessed as well. Some Iranian security analysts even argue that the deployment of the weapons on Turkish territory makes Turkey a “nuclear-weapon state.”[25] There is, therefore, the possibility that the presence of the weapons could actually spur Iranian nuclear weapons efforts. This issue may well be exploited by the Iranian leadership to justify the country’s continuing investments in more ambitious nuclear capabilities.

Conclusion

A key question for NATO’s new Strategic Concept is whether burden sharing will continue to be construed as it has had for many decades, as suggested by Turkey, or whether it will be altered in response to the combined negative stance of some western European allies regarding the forward deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons.

This situation could lead to a divisive and unnecessary controversy between Turkey and its long-standing allies in the West. By insisting that the weapons remain on European territory, Turkey would not only alienate some of its Western allies that truly want to move the weapons out of their territories, but also create tension in its relations with its neighbors and newly emerging partners in the Middle East.

On May 17, Turkey signed a joint declaration with Brazil and Iran, providing for the safe storage of Iran’s 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium fuel in Turkey in return for the delivery by France, Russia, the United States, and the International Atomic Energy Agency of 120 kilograms of fuel needed for the Tehran Research Reactor.[26] This “nuclear fuel swap” is potentially a breakthrough in the long-standing deadlock in Iran’s relations with the West over Tehran’s nuclear program. There is no question that the degree of trust that Turkey has built with Iran, especially over the last several years with the coming to power of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey, had a significant impact on getting this result.

Iran has so far adamantly refused all other offers. Hence, the Iranian political and security elites who have been closely interacting with their Turkish counterparts at every level over the past several months and years prior to the fuel swap announcement may raise their expectations in turn. They may press for withdrawal from Turkey of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, which they fear may be used against them, as a way for Turkey to prove its sincerity regarding its stance toward Iran and, more broadly, its commitment to creating a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East.

Turkey clearly has to tread carefully, but the risks should not be overstated.

One concern might be the contingencies in which the security situation in Turkey’s neighborhood deteriorates, thereby necessitating the active presence of an effective deterrent against the aggressor(s). Yet, given the elaborate capabilities that exist within the alliance and the solidarity principle so far effectively upheld by the allies, extending deterrence against Turkey’s rivals should not be a problem. Turkey would continue to be protected against potential aggressors by the nuclear guarantees of its allies France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the three NATO nuclear-weapon states. Turkey’s reliance on such a “credible” deterrent, which will not be permanently stationed on Turkish territory, is less likely to be criticized by its Middle Eastern neighbors[27] and should not engender a burden-sharing controversy with its European allies.

One cannot argue that once U.S. nuclear weapons that are stationed in Turkish territory are sent back, the nuclear deterrent of the alliance extended to Turkey will be lost forever.

Currently, three NATO members are nuclear-weapon states. Of the NATO non-nuclear-weapon states, only five, as mentioned above, are known to host U.S. nuclear weapons. The remaining 20 members have no nuclear weapons on their territories. Yet, these members enjoy the credible nuclear deterrent of NATO, which remains the most powerful military organization in the world. Hence, the simple outcome of this analysis is that, for NATO members to feel confident against the threats posed to their national security, they do not have to deploy U.S. nuclear weapons on their territory.[28] Turkey need not be an exception to this rule.


Mustafa Kibaroglu teaches courses on arms control and disarmament in the Department of International Relations at BilkentUniversity in Ankara, Turkey. He has held fellowships at HarvardUniversity’s BelferCenter for Science and International Affairs, the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research.


 

ENDNOTES

1. Italy is believed to host U.S. nuclear weapons, but it is not clear whether it wants to get rid of them. For an account of U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Italy, see Hans M. Kristensen, “U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe: A Review of Post-Cold War Policy, Force Levels, and War Planning,” Natural Resources Defense Council, 2005, p. 9.

2. NATO, “NATO’s New Strategic Concept – Why? How?,” May 2010, www.nato.int/strategic-concept.

3. NATO, “NATO Foreign Ministers Hold Talks on New Strategic Concept,” April 22, 2010.

4. Ibid.

5. Jean Asselborn et al. to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, February 26, 2010. For the full text of the letter, see www.armscontrol.org/system/files/Letter%20to%20Secretary%20General%20NATO.pdf.

6. Ibid.

7. Latvian ambassador, personal communication with author, Ankara, March 31, 2010. For a similar approach from the region, see Lukasz Kulesa, “Extended Deterrence and Assurance in Central Europe,” in Perspectives on Extended Deterrence, No.3/2010 (Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, Paris, 2010).

8. Carl Bildt and Radek Sikorski, “Next, the Tactical Nukes,” The New York Times, February 1, 2010.

9. Latvian ambassador, personal communication with author, Ankara, March 31, 2010.

10. Kulesa, “Extended Deterrence and Assurance in Central Europe.”

11. Retired Turkish ambassador, personal communication with author, Ankara, March 31, 2010.

12. See Mustafa Kibaroglu, “Turkey and Shared Responsibilities,” in “Shared Responsibilities for Nuclear Disarmament: A Global Debate,” Occasional Paper, AmericanAcademy of Arts and Sciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2010, pp. 24-27.

13. Retired Turkish air force commander, personal communication with author, Ankara, February 15, 2010.

14. Hans M. Kristensen, “U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe: A Review of Post-Cold War Policy, Force Levels, and War Planning,” p.9.

15. Mustafa Kibaroglu, “Isn’t It Time to Say Farewell to US Nukes in Turkey?” European Security, Vol. 14, No. 4 (December 2005), pp. 443-457.

16. Retired Turkish air force commander, personal communication with author, Ankara, February 15, 2010.

17. Hans M. Kristensen, e-mail communication with author, April 22, 2010

18. Retired Turkish air force commander, e-mail communication with author, April 23, 2010.

19. Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capability was destroyed following the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Iran and Syria still have such weapons in their military arsenals. Hence, the Turkish security elite still consider extended nuclear deterrence to be significant for Turkey’s security.

20. Turkish diplomat, personal communication with author, Ankara, January 29, 2010.

21. Amr Mousa, personal communications with author, Paris, February 1-4, 2010.

22 Mohmood Vaezi and Saghefi Ameri, personal communications with author, Tehran, December 2004.

23. These comments were made by Turkish security experts and analysts in response to a presentation by Mustafa Kibaroglu entitled “US Nuclear Weapons in Turkey and the Evolution of NATO’s New Strategic Concept” at the Strategy Group Meeting of the Turkish Foreign Policy Institute in Ankara on March 31, 2010.

24. Various arms control experts, personal communications with author, Washington, April 12-13, 2010.

25. Mohmood Vaezi and Saghefi Ameri, personal communications with author, Tehran, December 2004.

26. Joint Declaration of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Iran and Brazil, May 17, 2010.

27. The credibility of NATO’s deterrent has been questioned by security analysts both inside and outside of Turkey in various discussion platforms, and some have expressed their concerns about whether NATO countries would really use nuclear weapons against Iran to defend Turkey. There can be no clear answer for such a question, which relates to a dilemma that is inherent in the concept of deterrence.

28. Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen also suggested there are other means for maintaining alliance cohesion: “A more modest option would be for NATO to retain a nuclear task without U.S. nuclear weapons being stationed in Europe.” Daryl G. Kimball and Greg Thielmann, “Obama’s NPR: Transitional, Not Transformational,” Arms Control Today, May 2010.

 

NATO Chief’s Remark Highlights Policy Rift

A comment by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on the importance of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe has put a spotlight on disagreements among member states on the alliance’s nuclear posture.

On the first day of an informal April 22-23 meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Tallinn, Estonia, Rasmussen said at a press conference, “I do believe that the presence of American nuclear weapons in Europe is an essential part of a credible deterrent.”

Oliver Meier

A comment by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on the importance of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe has put a spotlight on disagreements among member states on the alliance’s nuclear posture.

On the first day of an informal April 22-23 meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Tallinn, Estonia, Rasmussen said at a press conference, “I do believe that the presence of American nuclear weapons in Europe is an essential part of a credible deterrent.”

Diplomatic sources emphasized in interviews late last month that Rasmussen’s statement did not represent a consensus within the alliance. A senior U.S. official said April 27 that “we were surprised by the urgency with which Rasmussen emphasized the importance of not changing NATO nuclear policies.” According to officials, several NATO members subsequently made clear to Rasmussen that they disagree with his statements on the necessity of continued deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe.

Because the Tallinn meeting was informal, NATO did not release an official communiqué on its results. In an April 23 press briefing, Rasmussen summed up the meeting by saying that ministers had agreed “that a broad sharing of the burden for NATO’s nuclear policy remains essential.” In contrast to his statement the previous day, Rasmussen did not specifically mention the need for continued forward-basing of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. He said he expects discussion on nuclear issues among NATO’s 28 members to “continue right up to November when the new Strategic Concept will be agreed,” referring to the next NATO summit in Lisbon, scheduled for Nov. 19-20.

The current debate about the future role of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe was triggered by the German government’s October 2009 initiative for a withdrawal of remaining U.S. nuclear weapons from Germany and Europe. (See ACT, December 2009.)

Under NATO nuclear sharing arrangements, the United States keeps an estimated 150 to 200 nuclear weapons in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey. These countries would provide aircraft that could deliver U.S. nuclear weapons to their targets in times of war, although the strike mission of the Turkish air force probably has expired. NATO does not provide details of nuclear deployments, but officials in the past have confirmed that “a few hundred” U.S. nuclear weapons are deployed in Europe. (See ACT, September 2007.)

In addition to forward-deployed U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, NATO relies on the nuclear arsenals of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States for nuclear deterrence.

The Tallinn meeting marked the first time that NATO foreign ministers were officially discussing NATO’s nuclear posture, a precedent apparently viewed with trepidation by some in NATO headquarters, who would have preferred to leave discussions on nuclear matters in the hands of defense ministers.

Rasmussen had been forced to put the issue on the agenda by an open letter sent to him by the foreign ministers of Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Norway on Feb. 26, in which the five countries argue for a “comprehensive discussion” of NATO’s contribution to nuclear disarmament. Officials said in interviews that the letter, which had been initiated by the Dutch government, was mainly motivated by fears that existing differences among NATO allies on nuclear issues would be papered over in the new Strategic Concept. (See ACT, March 2010.)

By and large, central and east Europeans appear to be content with the status quo of NATO’s nuclear posture. A March 2010 Royal United Services Institute report, based on interviews with NATO diplomats and officials, concludes that new NATO members generally see no reason “to change existing arrangements.” France, which does not participate in NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group but did join discussions in Tallinn, is consistently cited as also not being interested in changes to NATO’s nuclear posture. Several officials said these positions did not fundamentally change in Tallinn.

“The only thing we could agree at Tallinn was to disagree,” the senior U.S. official said April 27. He emphasized that given existing differences among NATO members, “that was the best we could expect at this point in time.”

In an April 20 interview, a senior German official drew a distinction between “discussions on Germany’s position to work for a removal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Germany and the debate about NATO’s nuclear posture.” He said “the former is a more practical and limited issue, although of high importance to Germany, while the latter relates to the question of how NATO fundamentally will view the role of nuclear weapons in the new Strategic Concept.”

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said in an April 21 parliamentary debate that he does not “see the need for having U.S. nuclear weapons on Dutch territory as a security guarantee.”

Arms Control Linkage

In an April 22 dinner speech at the Tallinn meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined “five principles” that should guide NATO’s approach to nuclear weapons. According to the written excerpts of her statement distributed at the meeting, they are:

•  “[A]s long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance”;

•  “[A]s a nuclear Alliance, sharing nuclear risks and responsibilities widely is fundamental”;

•  A “broad aim is to continue to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons” while “recogniz[ing] that in the years since the Cold War ended, NATO has already dramatically reduced its reliance on nuclear weapons”;

•  “Allies must broaden deterrence against the range of 21st century threats, including by pursuing territorial missile defense”; and

•  “[I]n any future reductions, our aim should be to seek Russian agreement to increase transparency on non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe, relocate these weapons away from the territory of NATO members, and include non-strategic nuclear weapons in the next round of U.S.-Russian arms control discussions alongside strategic and non-deployed nuclear weapons."

The recently released U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) states that talks on reducing the arsenals of nonstrategic, or tactical, nuclear weapons should only commence after the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty has entered into force (see page 38).

NATO allies support the inclusion of tactical nuclear weapons in a future arms control agreement, but Russia has sent conflicting signals on its willingness to include its stockpile of several thousand short-range nuclear weapons in any future arms control regime. (See ACT, April 2009.)

Deliberate Ambiguity

The senior U.S. official on April 27 strongly rejected the notion that Clinton wanted to tie changes in NATO’s nuclear posture to a possible arms control agreement with Russia on tactical nuclear weapons. “This is a complete misunderstanding of Secretary Clinton’s statement,” which was “deliberately ambiguous” on the future of the U.S. nuclear posture in Europe, he said. “The last thing we wanted to do was give a timeline for any changes,” he said.

The NPR states that, with regard to “future decisions within NATO about the requirements of nuclear deterrence and nuclear sharing,” Washington wants to “keep open all options.”

In response to questions at a press conference on the exact connection between NATO and Russian nuclear reductions, NATO spokesman James Appathurai said on April 22 that “what NATO decides, it decides on its own, but it does not take its decision in a vacuum.”

Similarly, the senior German official said that Berlin does not support a linkage between NATO’s nuclear posture and a future agreement with Russia on tactical nuclear weapons. “The decision by NATO to revise its nuclear posture should be based on an internal assessment of changed circumstances. Of course, removal [of tactical nuclear weapons] would also send a signal that we are serious about the objective to constantly further reduce the nuclear arsenals,” he said.

Other sources said that, by linking withdrawal to an agreement with Russia, NATO would relinquish the initiative on arms control. Instead of waiting for Moscow to move, NATO should strive to actively shape the international environment in order to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, they said.

By contrast, Foreign Ministers Radek Sikorski of Poland and Jonas Gahr Støre of Norway in an April 9 joint open letter argued that, in the field of tactical nuclear weapons, “reciprocity and mutually agreed measures are called for.”

On March 29, the Guardian’s Julian Borger reported in his Web log that the NATO Group of Experts, which is currently developing a first draft of NATO’s new Strategic Concept, would recommend in its report that U.S. nuclear weapons should only be removed from Europe as part of a quid pro quo with Russia. “You cannot get rid of them without reciprocity,” a member of the Experts Group is quoted as saying.

It appears that the reciprocity requirement has subsequently been challenged by at least one NATO member state and that discussions on this point could be reopened or the issue avoided altogether. Other officials additionally cautioned that the Experts Group will not determine the outcome of the Strategic Concept discussions on nuclear issues. Thus, the senior U.S. official on April 16 emphasized that the report will “help to inform the debate about the new Strategic Concept but it will only precede the actual drafting exercise.” The Experts Group report was supposed to be delivered to Rasmussen on May 1, but that date has been postponed for at least two weeks, officially because the flight ban imposed in Europe after the eruption of an Icelandic volcano in April prevented meetings of the group.

Rasmussen on April 23 summarized discussions among ministers by saying that they had agreed “that NATO must continue to maintain a balance between credible deterrence and support for arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation.” He reconfirmed the consensus view that NATO would decide on any changes to its nuclear posture only on the basis of an alliance-wide agreement and that missile defense “will not replace deterrence, but can complement it.”

The Obama administration in the NPR had stated its intention “to increase reliance on non-nuclear means,” such as missile defenses, for deterrence in regional security arrangements.

The NPR says that the United States will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that are party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty if those countries are complying with their nonproliferation obligations, but officials differed on how this new policy would affect NATO.

The senior German official said the NPR “should trigger an interesting debate” in the alliance “on its own new nuclear doctrine, which, as the NPR [does], should—from a German perspective—further restrict the circumstances under which NATO might use nuclear weapons.” Other officials were skeptical as to whether the alliance would be able to mirror new U.S. security guarantees. The senior U.S. official said April 16 the Obama administration will “want to wait and see how allies respond to the new nuclear doctrine” as outlined in the NPR “before we see whether we can align NATO policies with U.S. nuclear policies.” The issue of restricting the circumstances under which nuclear weapons could be used has not “come up yet in discussions,” he said.

 

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U.S. Taps Romania for Missile Defense

Moving to flesh out its revamped European missile defense plan announced last September, the Obama administration confirmed in February that Romania would host the first deployment of Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) land-based interceptors in 2015 and that Poland would host the next site in 2018. Turkey and Bulgaria may play a role as well, according to administration officials, who are seeking to soothe Russian concerns by inviting Moscow to join U.S.-NATO missile defense plans.

Tom Z. Collina

Moving to flesh out its revamped European missile defense plan announced last September, the Obama administration confirmed in February that Romania would host the first deployment of Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) land-based interceptors in 2015 and that Poland would host the next site in 2018. Turkey and Bulgaria may play a role as well, according to administration officials, who are seeking to soothe Russian concerns by inviting Moscow to join U.S.-NATO missile defense plans.

The Obama administration announced last fall its intention to base missile interceptors in Poland and in southeastern Europe, but exact deployment dates and the specific southern country had not been officially named. Speaking at the Nuclear Deterrence Summit near Washington Feb. 17, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher said SM-3 missiles would be deployed in Romania in 2015 and Poland in 2018 and that both sites would get missile upgrades in 2020.

Romanian President Traian Băsescu broke the news about his nation’s involvement Feb. 4 while Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was in Turkey and Tauscher was in Romania, a former Warsaw Pact member that now is part of NATO. Băsescu said that the system would not be directed at Russia but rather “against other threats,” according to The New York Times. Department of State spokesman P.J. Crowley told a press briefing Feb. 4 that “as we have made clear over and over again, this is not a capability that is directed at Russia.”

Gates later told reporters he was talking with the Turkish government about what role it could play within NATO on missile defense. “We have discussed the possibility of erecting two radar systems in Turkey,” Gates said Feb 8. However, Ankara is reportedly worried about appearing to sign a bilateral pact with Washington against Tehran.

The United States may also hold preliminary talks with the Bulgarian government on hosting parts of the system, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said Feb. 12, according to Reuters. But in her Feb. 17 comments, Tauscher said, “We’ve not made an offer to Bulgaria about hosting any element” of U.S. missile defenses.

Russian leaders said they were surprised by the news, and they reacted coolly to it. “We have already asked our partners in Washington...what does this all mean and why after the Romanian surprise there is a Bulgarian surprise now,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, according to Reuters Feb. 15. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton responded in a Washington speech Feb. 22 that Moscow has nothing to fear from NATO. “We need to make Russia a partner in our efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation and in missile defense. We invite Russia to join NATO in developing a missile defense system that can protect all citizens of Europe and of Russia as well,” she said.

Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, questioned how far such cooperation would go. “We would still like to understand whether the U.S. is really going to hold not only its own finger, but also that of its partners, on the button for using missile defense systems. I personally have very strong doubts about that,” he said Feb. 23 in an interview with Interfax.

U.S. missile defense plans for Europe are a long-standing concern for Russian officials, who say they fear the system could be used to intercept Russian long-range missiles aimed at the United States or even used to launch nuclear warheads at Russia. Gates told a press conference last September that the Russians “believed, despite our best efforts to dissuade them, that the ground-based interceptors in Poland could be fitted with nuclear weapons and become an offensive weapon…for which they would have virtually no warning time.” Russia’s new military doctrine, recently approved by President Dmitry Medvedev, identified U.S. missile defense as a major threat to Russian security, saying it “undermines strategic stability.” The document also underscored the continued expansion of NATO and its “assumption of global functions in violation of international law.”

Deployment Plans Set

Last September, the Obama administration shifted gears from Bush administration plans to deploy 10 long-range interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, saying that it would instead deploy shorter-range interceptors against near-term missile threats from Iran and increase interceptor performance over time. (See ACT, October 2009.) According to the administration’s February 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Review and other sources, this “phased adaptive approach” for Europe includes deploying SM-3 Block IA interceptors, which have a top speed of 3 kilometers per second, on Aegis ships in the Mediterranean Sea and a radar in southern Europe next year. Tauscher told journalists Feb. 15 that the United States does not plan to deploy sea-based SM-3 missiles in the Black Sea, a prospect that Russia has opposed.

By 2015, about 20 land-based SM-3 Block IB interceptors, known as “Aegis-Ashore,” would be deployed in Romania with an improved “kill vehicle,” which is carried by the missile and seeks and collides with the target. By 2018 a second land-based site would be added in Poland with larger and faster (4.5 kilometers per second) SM-3 Block IIA missiles, which are in development and would also be deployed in Romania. The fourth phase, in 2020, would deploy at both sites another SM-3 upgrade, Block IIB, with an improved kill vehicle, which, according to the BMD Review, would have “some early-intercept capability against a long-range missile.”

“We are starting the four-phased approach to fielding a capability in Europe against the emerging Iranian threat, initially against the short- and medium-range threat that exists, and hence our initial emphasis will be on southeastern Europe,” David Altwegg, executive director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), told Pentagon reporters Feb. 1.

The initial SM-3 Block IA and IB deployments at sea and in Romania are not likely by themselves to cause Russia serious concern, according to experts, because these interceptors would not be effective against long-range missiles and, as a result, would not likely derail the ongoing START follow-on talks (see page 40). However, the 2018 and 2020 phases of the Obama administration’s plans, during which Block IIA and IIB SM-3 missiles would be deployed at sea and in Romania and Poland, do appear to give Russian leaders reason to worry and could create problems for the current and future U.S.-Russian nuclear arms reductions talks, sources say. Lavrov told Russia Today TV in October that the revised U.S. plans “would not create problems in its first phase, but we would like more details on further stages.”

Reflecting these concerns, Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak told the nuclear deterrence conference Feb. 17 that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty “gave predictability” by limiting U.S. missile defense deployments. But with the Bush administration’s withdrawal from that treaty in 2002, “the environment has changed,” he said. “We are not sure that the story that we are hearing is the story that will develop within the time span of the would-be treaty, 10 years,” he said. To deal with this uncertainty, Russia may attach a unilateral declaration to the START follow-on stating that Moscow would withdraw if “strategic stability” was upset by U.S. missile defense deployments, The Cable reported Feb. 17.

In response to that possibility, Senators Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) sent a letter to national security adviser James Jones Feb. 17 warning that “[e]ven as a unilateral declaration, a provision like this would put pressure on the United States to limit its [missile defense] systems or their deployment because of Russian threats of withdrawal from the treaty.” Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) countered that both sides are free to make unilateral declarations, which are routine and do not justify opposition to the agreement. “They can withdraw unilaterally for any reason, so I don’t know that that’s a good reason to object,” Levin told The Cable Feb. 23, adding, “The United States withdrew unilaterally from the ABM Treaty when we decided it was in our interest, right?”

In their letter, the three senators pledged to work with the administration to fund and deploy the European system, “most especially” the SM-3 Block IIB interceptor.

Funding Request

Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2011 budget request, which was released Feb. 1, asked for about $10 billion for missile defense. That figure, which includes space-based sensors, is $2 billion less than in fiscal year 2009, when the funding was based on the Bush administration’s request, and $700 million more than in fiscal year 2010. More than $4.2 billion would go to the European system, including $1.5 billion for Aegis ballistic missile defense, $319 million for SM-3 Block IIA, $112 million for the Airborne Infrared Sensor, $94 million for 436 Aegis SM-3 Block IA and IB interceptors by 2015, $1.5 billion for three additional AN/TPY-2 radars (14 total), $455 million for BMD sensors, and $281 million for land-based SM-3, according to the MDA.

“We have shifted our emphasis from the ground-based defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles to the regional threat, short- and medium-range missiles, which comprise about 99 percent of the ballistic missile threat extant,” Altwegg said Feb. 1.

The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, which is meant to protect the United States from limited long-range missile attack from North Korea and Iran, would receive $1.3 billion in fiscal 2011, an increase of $317 million. According to the BMD Review, by the end of this year the United States will deploy 30 ground-based interceptors, with 26 at Fort Greely Army Base in Alaska, and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This system can “counter the projected threats from North Korea and Iran for the foreseeable future,” according to the review. The Bush administration had planned to deploy 44 ground-based interceptors.

Meanwhile, a Jan. 31 flight test of the GMD system failed to intercept its target, which was designed to mimic an Iranian missile attack, according to the MDA. In the $150 million test, both the target missile, fired from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, and the interceptor, from Vandenberg, performed normally, the MDA said. “However, the Sea-Based X-band [SBX] radar did not perform as expected,” the agency said on its Web site Feb 1. Later the same day, Altwegg said, “I’m not exonerating the SBX, but I am not saying it was solely an SBX problem.” He said the results of a failure review would not be known for months.

It was the first time the United States had tested its long-range defense against a simulated Iranian attack. Previous drills have imitated a flight path from North Korea, another country locking horns with the international community over its nuclear program.

In a separate test, the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) destroyed a boosting ballistic missile for the first time Feb. 11, the MDA announced. Carried by a Boeing 747 jumbo jet, the ALTB shot down a short-range ballistic missile that was launched from a sea-based mobile launch platform off Point Mugu on the central California coast. However, according to the BMD Review, this program has experienced repeated schedule delays and technical problems since its start in 1996; plans for a second plane were canceled, and the existing aircraft has been shifted to a technology demonstration program. (See ACT, July/August 2009.) Last April, Gates said that the Airborne Laser program “has significant affordability and technology problems and the program’s proposed operational role is highly questionable.” The Pentagon has no plans to revive the program after the recent test because it requires the military to “hover a 747 in enemy territory to shoot down a missile” and carries “an extraordinary cost,” Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Feb 18.

The BMD Review said that, in the future, more emphasis would be placed on conducting realistic tests of interceptors and radars. The Bush administration was criticized repeatedly by Democrats and independent scientists for rushing the GMD system into deployment before it was fully tested and for staging tests that were not operationally realistic. In contrast, according to the review, “The [Obama] administration will take a different approach, best characterized as ‘fly before you buy.’”

 

 

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Ministers Urge NATO Nuclear Policy Review

The foreign ministers of five NATO countries last month called for a discussion of what the alliance can do to advance nuclear arms control and said “the inclusion of sub-strategic nuclear weapons in subsequent steps towards nuclear disarmament” should be part of the discussion.

Caitlin Taber and Daryl G. Kimball

The foreign ministers of five NATO countries last month called for a discussion of what the alliance can do to advance nuclear arms control and said “the inclusion of sub-strategic nuclear weapons in subsequent steps towards nuclear disarmament” should be part of the discussion.

Steven Vanackere of Belgium, Guido Westerwelle of Germany, Jean Asselborn of Luxembourg, Maxime Verhagen of the Netherlands, and Jonas Gahr Støre of Norway made the proposal in a Feb. 26 letter to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. They said the NATO foreign ministers meeting next month in Tallinn, Estonia, provides “an opportunity to open a comprehensive discussion on these issues.” NATO’s “future policy requires the full support of all Allies,” they said.

The initiative follows several high-level calls for NATO to change its current nuclear sharing policy under which an estimated 150-250 U.S. nuclear gravity bombs are stationed in 87 aircraft shelters at six bases in five NATO countries.

Shortly after taking office, Germany’s coalition government said in an Oct. 24 statement that, in the context of upcoming talks on a new Strategic Concept for NATO, Berlin “will advocate a withdrawal of remaining nuclear weapons from Germany, both within NATO and vis-à-vis our American allies.” NATO states are scheduled to produce an updated Strategic Concept for the alliance by November.

Separately, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski called on the United States and Russia to achieve “early progress on steep reductions in sub-strategic nuclear weapons” in a Feb. 1 joint op-ed in The International Herald Tribune.

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

Russia is estimated to possess about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons in various states of readiness. Moscow has indicated that its willingness to discuss the matter depends on the removal of U.S. tactical warheads from NATO bases in Europe. In January 2009, Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the secretary of state-designate, said the United States supports future nuclear arms talks with Russia addressing all types of nuclear weapons—deployed and nondeployed, strategic and nonstrategic.

At a Feb. 23 press briefing in Washington, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder said, “This is a discussion we want to have with allies…. [I]t is not something that we want to do unilaterally, and we don’t want any other ally to move in a direction unilaterally to try to change the NATO nuclear discussion.”

 

 

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