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Next Steps in Arms Control: Second Panel Transcript - Tactical Nuclear Weapons and NATO
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Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.

CATHERINE KELLEHER:  (In progress) – back together again.  So if we can start with our next panel, it is on a subject close to my heart.  It seems to me that for 45, or is it 50 years or so, I’ve been struggling with this, certainly since I was an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke and looking at the Honest John and a few other remnants of that era as they tried to decide just which back streets in Germany we were going to send tactical nuclear weapons around, especially when – well, the lethal radius.  You all know the joke.  

This is an important issue and one that I think has grown in prominence here in the United States perhaps for the first time in the discussions of the last two years.  We’re very fortunate to have people who will come and present a number of different perspectives on this issue.  It is an issue which will figure – we’re not quite sure how prominently – but one is assured prominently in the strategic concept and in whatever strategic review will follow the strategic concept.  

I’d like to turn if I could first to someone who has written extensively and intensively on this topic, most recently in Arms Control Today, Oliver Meier, who is associated with an institute at the University of Hamburg – you’ll read about him in your bios – and who has been an international staff member of ACA for a very long time and one of those resources that one can always trust to know what not only the latest greatest is but also to have a clear view on the bigger picture.  So without further ado, Oliver.

OLIVER MEIER:  Thank you.  Thank you, Catherine, and good morning everybody.  I’d also like to start off by thanking the organizers and the Heinrich Böll Foundation, particularly for bringing me over here.  It’s a real pleasure to be on such a prestigious panel, particularly now that we are less than two weeks away from the summit in Lisbon.  I would like to use my 10 minutes to do three things very briefly:  start off by giving you, again, some reasons why I think NATO’s nuclear policies can and should change, then highlight some of the issues where the new strategic concept I’m afraid is likely to fall short of expectations for change and add a little bit to the gloom that we already had on the first panel I’m afraid and turn to –

MS. KELLEHER:  Cautious optimist.

MR. MEIER:  Cautious optimist.  Cautious pessimists may be more appropriate in this case.  But we are still two weeks away so there is still opportunities for change.  I want to close by making a proposal on how some of the discrepancies between the expectations for change and the tendencies for inertia within NATO that I see currently could be dealt with.

So let me start off by, again, saying that the context in which we are discussing the new strategic concept is of course the one of global zero, as has been mentioned on the first panel, and I think that has become the yardstick against which any action on nuclear weapons these days is being measured, whether we like it or not, and that is one of the reasons why the majority of NATO member states, and I think also the majority of host nations are no longer comfortable with the current nuclear status quo.  There is a broad majority in parliaments and among the public, among many European member states and I think at least three of the five nations where U.S. nuclear weapons are still deployed in Europe are for withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons and it would be extremely costly for the alliance, both in political terms but also financially potentially, to just maintain NATO’s current nuclear posture.  

Secondly, I think it’s important to keep in mind that U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Europe do not have any military value and that this view is actually shared I think unanimously among allies.  To some degree, the new strategic concept I think is likely to recognize this fact by repeating the formulation from the old, or the current, strategic concept, [that] circumstances in which any use of nuclear weapons might be contemplated are extremely remote.  The reservations that we have heard from a number of Central European countries but also Turkey to a radical change of NATO’s nuclear posture are not so much related to the military or any military value of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe but more to the credibility of security assurances by the United States and NATO more generally.

Thirdly, I think it’s important to recall that the new strategic concept will send an important signal about the seriousness with which NATO would support global nonproliferation efforts.  The alliance has a unique and prominent role in the global nuclear landscape, if you like.  Three of the five NPT nuclear weapon states are NATO members and of the 14 states that currently have nuclear weapons on their territory, eight are members of NATO.  NATO remains the only alliance that practices nuclear sharing and the United States is the only nuclear weapons state that still in peacetime deploys nuclear weapons onto territory of nonnuclear weapons states.  I think against this background it’s quite evident that what NATO does on nuclear policy does send an important signal about how serious the alliance and the West more generally are about nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation

Now, against this background let me make three observations why the new strategic concept I think will not provide the active support for efforts to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons that many are hoping for, and this assessment is based on conversations and interviews I’ve had after the second draft of the new strategic concept was released around October 26 to capitals.  Now, I heard this morning that there was actually a third draft that was released last Friday.  So I’d be more than happy to be corrected by some of the people who know more about this draft concept, which of course remains classified, about the pessimistic assessment that I’m about to give.

The first area I think where NATO’s – the new strategic concept is likely to fall short of expectations is declaratory policy.  There is little doubt that NATO’s current declaratory policy, which still is based on the Cold War theory that short-range nuclear weapons could be used to defeat conventional superior Soviet forces but also to provide an escalatory capability, is outdated.  Both functions obviously no longer apply today.  However, I think there’s a real danger that NATO will not be able to change that nuclear policy in the new strategic concept and it would be problematic, I think, and counterproductive if NATO in the new strategic concept were to emphasize that it remains a nuclear alliance to deter any attack or coercion against it.  

Keeping the core of NATO’s nuclear posture intact would signal exactly that the alliance is not serious about reducing the value of nuclear weapons, that it’s actually unable to bring its declaratory policy in line with todays’ requirements.  There’s a related problem in that there would be a lack of coherence between the U.S. nuclear posture and NATO’s nuclear posture because as we’ve heard this morning already, the United States, of course, has restricted in the nuclear posture review the circumstances under which it would be prepared to use nuclear weapons.  If NATO doesn’t go along with this, it would undermine, I would believe, Obama’s push to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons.  

The second area where the new strategic concept is likely to fall short is nuclear posture itself and the future of nuclear sharing.  I think there still is surprise that the new strategic concept is likely to recommit NATO to being a nuclear alliance along the lines of what Secretary of State Clinton has said at the informal foreign ministers meeting in Tallinn in April, given the fact that we have three nuclear weapons states that are members of the alliance, I think this is a fairly obvious statement to make.  Assessing the need for the continued basing of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe, of course, is more complex and Clinton in Tallinn referred to this indirectly by emphasizing the fundamental value of sharing of nuclear risks and responsibilities.  

Now, burden-sharing of course is a key principle for any military alliance, as in NATO particularly, but my impression is that many NATO members currently are more interested in having the value of burden-sharing demonstrated in Afghanistan rather than at nuclear weapons storage sites in Central Europe.  Now, if NATO heads of state and governments in Lisbon were to commit themselves again to ensure the broadest possible participation of allies in planning of nuclear roles or the peacetime basing of nuclear forces or command, control and consultation agreements, I think this would unnecessarily restrict options to change NATO’s nuclear posture in the future, and it would also run counter to the expressed will of the German government, for example, to have U.S. nuclear weapons withdrawn from Europe.

The third area I want to highlight is related to arms control and linkages with Russia’s nuclear posture.  There is still doubt, I think, that this topic of arms control will play a more prominent role in the new strategic concept.  German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle wants to make arms control and disarmament a trademark of the alliance and the new strategic concept is likely to contain several elements towards that end.  Thus, the new concept is likely to endorse the concept of a world free of nuclear weapons, even though it will likely come with the usual French reservations that global zero must be pursued in a manner that promoted international stability and is based on the principle of undiminished security for all.  

I think NATO is also likely to strengthen its internal dialogue on arms control issues, both nuclear and conventional, by creating a new mechanism along the recommendations of the Albright group of experts.  More controversial is the issue of embedding any change of NATO’s nuclear posture in an arms control agreement with Russia, something that Ralf Fücks referred to this morning already.

On this issue, the new strategic concept is also likely to be conservative by stating that it should be NATO’s aim to seek Russian agreement to increase transparency of its nuclear weapons stockpile and to encourage Russia to relocate weapons away from the borders with NATO states.  It seems as if NATO is likely to place any further steps that the alliance itself might take in the context of a disparity between Russia’s stockpile in tactical nuclear weapons and NATO holdings.  I think such a strong linkage between changes of NATO’s future nuclear posture and Russia’s nuclear policy is both unneeded and counterproductive.  It’s unneeded because there no longer exists a strategic connection between tactical nuclear postures of NATO and Russia.  

On both sides I think the reasons for maintaining these weapons are primarily internal or domestic.  It therefore makes little sense to me to place these weapons directly in a bargaining context on the same table and have a give-and-take type of arms control negotiations on tactical nuclear weapons particularly.  

To be sure, we’ve heard these weapons should be included in any future arms control talk.  All NATO members have recognized this fact already in the NPT review conference final declarations.  But by putting these weapons directly in an arms control context, NATO itself would be putting itself pretty much at the mercy of Moscow in terms of any changes itself might want to initiate on its nuclear posture.  

So to conclude, let me make a couple of observations on how to bridge this gap between expectations that we had for change and the tendencies for inertia within NATO.  It seems quite obvious that NATO by the time of the summit will not be able to bridge some of the differences among member states on how to deal with nuclear sharing in the future and therefore I think it’s important that the strategic concept itself does not prevent any meaningful change of NATO’s nuclear policies after the Lisbon summit.  Thus, the concept will focus on areas where there is consensus among NATO allies.

There are three areas particularly where there is consensus.  NATO will continue to rely on a mix of conventional and nuclear forces for deterrence.  NATO members also endorse the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. And I think there is agreement that NATO needs to do more to support arms control and disarmament.  Such a minimalistic strategic concept could provide a framework, then, for discussions among NATO members on more controversial issues after the Lisbon summit and this is the idea of having a NATO nuclear posture review or some kind of posture review that many people have spoken about and that Paul Ingram and I wrote about in the October issue of Arms Control Today in some more detail.  

Let me just briefly say that it’s important I think that such a NATO nuclear posture review if we have such a posture review, I don’t think that’s a done deal as Joan Rohlfing suggested on the first panel, that such a review has to be comprehensive.  It should not preclude any outcome.  All options have to be on the table.  It should focus on nuclear issues.  It shouldn’t link from the outset changes in the nuclear posture, for example, to missile defense or conventional force issues.  It would have to give operational guidance for implementing and changing NATO’s nuclear policies, and such a review – the process of such a review should be open, inclusive and transparent.  

Obviously any decision to change NATO’s nuclear posture will have to be made by consensus.  I think that’s a point that is agreed among allies for quite some time actually.  But this principle, this consensus principle, should not be abused as an opportunity to block evolution of NATO’s nuclear posture.  To do so would greatly damage alliance cohesion because we have in quite a few NATO member states broad support for withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons particularly.  

The most viable course of action may be in the medium term to phase out nuclear sharing and in parallel develop more credible nonnuclear instruments of assurance and reassurance and to spur a constructive dialogue with Russia over European security issues.  A NATO nuclear posture review could be the right vehicle to initiate such a dialogue.  But again, for that to take place, it’s necessary that the new strategic concept does not foreclose any options for changing NATO’s nuclear posture in the future.  Thank you very much.

MS. KELLEHER:  Thank you.  (Applause.)

MS. KELLEHER:  Our second speaker is Marek Szcyzgiel, who comes to us from the Polish foreign ministry where he’s deputy director of the security policy department, and for almost two decades now, Marek has worked in a number of areas – NATO affairs, OSCE affairs.  He’s spent time in Sweden, including being the head of the Polish school in Stockholm, which I must say is a nice change for a diplomat I suspect.  But now, he’s fully engaged in these areas and we’re looking forward to hearing what he has to say.  Marek?

MAREK SZCYGIEL:  Thank you very much, and thank you for inviting me to speak to such prominent audience, and I will express my personal views here.  So they do not necessarily represent the views of the Polish ministry of foreign affairs.  In order to be politically correct, I should probably start with mentioning the positive climate which has been established by many past events in the field of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation this year.  

However, bearing in mind that we are just a few days prior to the NATO Lisbon summit, I would like to focus my remarks on the main subject of my interest, namely how to find proper balance between credible nuclear deterrence and arms control and disarmament.  A question that I would try to answer is how to implement the broad long-term goals which are to reduce both the role and numbers of nuclear weapons while at the same time maintain an effective extended deterrence and reassurance of allies in Europe that the U.S. commitment remains as solid as ever.  

I would try to shed some light on this dilemma from the Polish perspective, which to a certain extent represents also the views of other so-called new NATO members.  I don’t like this expression, but this is very frequently used.  So I would try to use term as Central European countries.  In fact, I’m convinced that the attitude towards the role of nuclear weapons among member states of NATO is not so divergent as some public comments may suggest.

So in a run up to the NATO Lisbon summit, we see growing convergence of views and this is I think very positive element.  At the same time, I think we should avoid oversimplification of the picture because that could hamper the proper understanding of the motives behind the positions taken by specific NATO member states.  So the discussion on the topic of NATO nuclear policy is very intense in recent months and we heard many publicly expressed opinions on this subject.  

As far as position of Poland is concerned, we are trying to play an active and constructive role in this debate, and so there is no secret that President Obama’s call for a world free of nuclear weapons made in Prague in April 2009 was met in all parts of Europe with great enthusiasm.  But the issue was seen, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, in connection with U.S. commitment to the security of European countries.  Since their accession to NATO in ‘99, nuclear extended deterrence has been perceived in Poland as a core element of Article 5 security guarantees.  At the same time, Poland always perceived and treated nuclear policy with I would say certain degree of sober realism.  

So Polish perception of the role of nuclear weapons has been in the recent time, I’d say in the last two years, influenced by a number of important factors.  I would like to mention a few of them.  So first of all, our decision to participate in the modified architecture of European missile defense, then the negotiations and the final agreement between United States and Russia on strategic arms reductions – New START.  Also, some signals coming from Russia on the confirming, I would say, the continued reliance of Russia on tactical nuclear weapons and its nuclear posture, then also very important outcome of the 2010 U.S. nuclear posture review and also to certain extent internal political debates in some European countries on nuclear issues.  

Oliver mentioned Germany, which is a good example here.  As a result, Polish government adopted more flexible and declared its openness to discuss necessary modifications of NATO nuclear posture in the framework of new NATO strategic concept.  So Warsaw considered itself as being capable of conducting more proactive policy, going beyond the simple defense of the existing status quo.  I think it was quite important change in our attitude towards NATO nuclear policy.  To certain extent, I think we were trying also to capitalize on our emerging status of middle-sized but important and responsible European country, which also somehow demonstrated growing sense of self-confidence in security policy affairs.  

In the scope of internal NATO debate, we tried also to somehow eliminate the risk that this – or reduce the risk that this debate would be dominated by two opposing options – creating some unnecessary tensions or divisions within the alliance on this issue while at the same time ignoring some specific regional security concerns of countries like Poland.  This view, more forward-looking approach to nuclear issues, has been manifested in the joint article published by Polish and Swedish foreign ministers in February this year in New York Times.  

In this article, two foreign ministers called for reductions and ultimate withdrawal of the sub-strategic nuclear weapons, drawing particular attention to the large Russian arsenals of sub-strategic weapons located in the vicinity of NATO and E.U. territory.  Afterwards, in April, just a couple of days before the NATO ministerial meeting in Tallinn, Poland and Norway together issued, or presented rather, to the allies joint paper on the inclusion of tactical nuclear weapons into general arms control and disarmament processes.  This non-paper content called for step-by-step approach with regard to possible tactical nuclear weapons reductions.  We were of the opinion that they should embrace transparency and confidence building measures, which in the future should eventually allow for cuts in the nonstrategic nuclear weapons holdings.  

Reciprocity and mutually agreed measures were in our opinion the best and still are among the best ways to move forward with the process leading to possible reductions.  So the main thrust, the main spirit of this non-paper was that in order to find kind of realistic approach, we need to think broader and to put strong emphasis on ICBMs and transparency.  Through those two initiatives and in our bilateral contacts with U.S. government, with other partners in NATO, we tried to slightly refocus and reshape the debate in order to place more emphasis on the issue of tactical nuclear weapons as a general problem, instead of looking at it as an internal NATO issue.  

I think our intention was also to highlight the risk and potential consequences of some unilateral actions motivated by domestic political issues, potential negative consequences for the security of entire NATO.  To our somehow pleasure and to our satisfaction, those views were noted and to a large degree reflected in the five points delivered by the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, during the Tallinn ministerial meeting.  We also positively assessed the outcome of the 2010 nuclear posture review and we were also satisfied with the language of NATO group of experts report led by Madeleine Albright.  

So now let me finally turn to the issue of new NATO strategic concept and its provisions on NATO nuclear policy.  We think that it should serve as a kind of broader guide to elaborate more specific NATO policies in certain areas including NATO nuclear posture and we hope that in the follow-up process we’ll be able to tackle NATO deterrence strategy in broader sense, including its declaratory policy, and this NATO nuclear posture review mentioned by Oliver should be comprehensive and as inclusive as possible.  So we hope that it will be conducted without artificial deadlines or any – will not preclude any conclusions.  We are very much attached to the procedure of adopting any changes by consensus.  

But let me also say that in order to move things forward, we need to – this process requires also some efforts aimed at ensuring the alliance that possible reductions in tactical nuclear weapons will not weaken NATO deterrence capability and not weaken trans-Atlantic link.  If needed, the credibility of NATO deterrence policy could be reinforced by other means.  But as the NPR correctly put it, the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons combined with NATO’s unique nuclear sharing arrangements continue to the alliance cohesion and provide reassurance to allies and partners who feel exposed to regional threats.  

So in order to introduce more, say, dramatic changes, we need to find some elements to substitute or compensate this current contribution of those arrangements, and there is no need to stress that for countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the crucial issue is the issue of reassurance, reassurance that could be provided through updating contingency plans but also to increase the military footprint on the territory of those countries, but also to somehow increase attention to the Article 5 security guarantees.  I will stop here and will try to answer your questions on those issues in due time.  Thank you.

MS. KELLEHER:  Thank you, Marek.  (Applause.)

Our last speaker will be Jan Lodal, who was – with whom I had the pleasure to serve in the Clinton administration when he was principal undersecretary – deputy undersecretary of Defense and was up to his ears in many number of things.  He’s clearly known as one of the founding members of the nuclear mafia club, having had a particular role in the dim dark days of the Kissinger first efforts in terms of major strategic arms control, and it makes it all the more interesting that he, together with Ivo Daalder, authored one of the critical issues – issue analyses called “The Logic of Zero” in 2008, and has been talking about it for some time before that.  So without further ado, Jan?

JAN LODAL:  Thanks very much, Catherine, and I can’t help but start off by saying that Catherine and I have been having a fun debate in these things for longer than I care to mention quantitatively.  But while she was off learning about the Honest John, I, as a second lieutenant, was in a military exercise that included a simulated Honest John strike with a big mushroom cloud simulated and all of this was to make us feel comfortable with the use of these weapons in conjunction with conventional forces as if they were just regular old weapons.  So that’s where we were in the Cold War, and as we know, things have changed a lot.

I’m going to take a little bit different approach to this, partially because I think that the Lisbon summit is probably outside of any of our influence and may actually be pretty much set by now and whatever is going to come out of that is pretty close to worked out and we’re not going to change that very much.  So I’m going to focus on where we go after the Lisbon summit with an assumption that the results related to nuclear weapons are going to be a bit disappointing to all of us in this room, but they won’t be terrible and they’ll advance the ball a little bit and they will once again reiterate a world without nuclear weapons as an eventual necessity and that will be helpful.  They’ll also reiterate that we remain a nuclear alliance and that while we’re on our way to a world without nuclear weapons, nuclear deterrence remains essential.

So part of what I’m going to say is motivated by having read Paul Krugman this morning and Paul has – he’s a former colleague of mine at the Princeton Woodrow Wilson School and of course the world now recognizes him as a great quantitative economist as well.  But when he writes his policy papers, he has this wonderful way of always coming back to the fundamentals, which he believes are quite messed up, the fundamentals in his case being that economies don’t get out of slumps until there’s enough aggregate demand and therefore all economic policy should be measured against that goal, which is to get aggregate demand up and he tries to remind people of this at all times with varying degrees of success.  

I also believe that the unclear policy questions have a simple ultimate goal also and that of course is to eliminate nuclear weapons and there’s a very clear reason for that and that is that unless you eliminate them, given that the technology is widely known, given that there’s going to be more nuclear power plants, given that there’s tons and tons of material around the world with which nuclear weapons can be made and lots of weapons today, some simple analysis has to conclude that it is inevitable that ultimately they will be used again unless they are completely eliminated.

A control regime is put in place that can control all that material, which Joan very helpfully reminded us of in the earlier panel, is equally important to controlling the weapons and also making sure that in fact there are no weapons and that nobody’s trying to break out so that if somebody does try to break out, there’s adequate lead-time for the rest of the world to respond in a way that will make it quite unpleasant for the state that tries to break out of the regime.  

So all of that is a very tall order just like it’s a very tall order to figure out how to increase aggregate demand enough to get us out of the horrible economic mess we’re in.  But it can’t be avoided and we have to remember that fundamental point as we look at all arms control policy and we have to measure our goal, our specific efforts against that goal.  I think when you do that, you actually come up with answers or conclusions about some of our efforts that are a little bit different than the conventional wisdom.  Let me reiterate that there’s two things you have to do to get the world on a path to nuclear zero.  

First, you have to get everyone to agree that the only valid purpose of nuclear weapons is to prevent the use of nuclear weapons by others and that’s not universally accepted.  In fact, I’d say the majority of people having anything to do with this don’t accept it.  They believe that nuclear weapons provide some other kind of purpose.  The French, of course, talk about nuclear weapons in some vague way protecting their most vital national interests and so forth and many of the smaller and proliferating states believe that if they have nuclear weapons, they can deter conventional attacks against them and so forth.  So I won’t – we don’t have time here to elaborate why I think a careful analysis of this will lead to a different conclusion.  

But the other thing you have to do is you have to create this regime that goes way beyond the IAEA regime that we have today, notwithstanding the fact that the IAEA regime has been amazingly successful given how small it is.  The IAEA found Iraq’s program before the ‘91 war.  It was gone of course before the second war.  They found the North Korean program and they found the Iranian program with their very limited capabilities.  So I believe that the technology is there to create a regime that can do what we need it to do.  

Now, specifically with regard to the NATO weapons, as others have said, and I agree particularly with what Oliver said at the beginning, there’s no military use left for these weapons.  They also have other problems that are actually vulnerable, notwithstanding the fact that there’s bunkers now built and storage sites are improved.  I have had the distinct pleasure of probably being the only person in the room who’s had his hand on one of those weapons and seen the situation there on the ground.  It’s impossible to make these storage sites completely invulnerable.  So they actually violate some strategic stability requirements as well, and they’re really quite expensive to maintain.  

We find ourselves in the absurd position of having countries that are hosting these weapons in some cases already having given up the capability to actually mount them on their aircraft and use them and in most cases not having long-term plans that are adequate to use them.  So it really makes no military sense to have these on the ground in Europe.  

So from that standpoint, I would hope that some kind of nuclear posture review will be authorized at the Lisbon summit.  I think it will and I think that’s where to focus on the question of deployments.  The deployments are not really a proper subject for the strategic concept itself in any event and hopefully a 12-month posture review as has been suggested in Oliver and his colleagues’ article will be undertaken and that some of these what I believe are truly absurdities will be dealt with.  

So then, how can we go forward from there?  Are giving up a bargain chip with Russia?  No, not really because the fact of the matter is, as you’ve heard from our distinguished Russia colleague on the earlier panel Russia has a whole bunch of complaints about what we do.  They of course complain about the forward-based systems but they complain about our missile defenses and they complain about our long-range strategic conventional forces, and they complain about conventional force balances otherwise and a lot of other things.  So really we’re very far from reaching an agreement with the present Russian government on these fundamental points related to nuclear weapons and the fundamental need to get the world on a completely different path.  

In my view, the best way for us to negotiate with Russia is to address those fundamental issues head-on.  The New START treaty doesn’t do it.  Even Sen. Lugar, its greatest supporter in the Senate right now, tries to make clear that it serves a different purpose.  It closes out the old approach and allows us to go forward with a new approach.  I don’t believe the Russians see it that way.  I believe they see it as setting the foundation for our nuclear relationship for some time to come and if that’s the case, we won’t get very far toward a world without nuclear weapons.

So I think we need to address these issues directly with Russia, and whether or not we have a few vulnerable, not usable weapons on the ground in Europe or not isn’t going to make much difference in how successful we are at doing that.  I would say more or less the same thing about France.  

France is back in the alliance.  France should, in my opinion, make it clear that whatever nuclear weapons they have for the foreseeable future will contribute to an umbrella over all of NATO.  The Brits have more or less made that clear.  We certainly have made it very clear, and so in that respect we should try to convince the French that there is a use for their weapons while we’re on a path to zero that goes beyond what they’ve stated.

But slowly but surely we have to get them all off some of their Gaullist inspired broader ideas about what these weapons can possibly do.  Meanwhile of course we have to continue to make it clear that our nuclear umbrella and our nuclear guarantees remain in place and we really need to keep emphasizing that nobody is proposing unilateral zero.  Most of the people in – in fact, probably a very significant fraction of the Congress of the United States things that when you talk about zero, we’re talking about U.S. unilateral zero and that’s what all of us in this room want and we arms controllers and everybody else thinks we ought to just get rid of all of our nuclear weapons.  

The Global Zero organization put the word global in there for a purpose and I try never to use the word zero entirely by itself.  Universal zero, global zero, that’s what we’re trying to get to and it cannot be reached unless it’s reached essentially simultaneous and we should all accept that.  

There are many, many people in the arms control, disarmament community who take a legal view or a moral view against nuclear weapons and argue very strongly that we should lead by unilaterally going to zero and those views are in my opinion counterproductive and make it more difficult to get to zero because they allow the rest of us to be tarred with this kind of accusation that we also are proposing some kind of unilateral disarmament on the part of the West, on the part of the United States and laving ourselves vulnerable to significant nuclear dangers.  

So we do have to emphasize that there is a legitimate role for nuclear weapons but only one. And that role is to deter, prevent the use of nuclear weapons by others. And therefore if others will give them up, so can we. And that we need to convince the rest of the world that that’s true and we need to build this control regime and we need to evaluate everything we do against those two specific objectives which are what we have to do if we want to have a chance of getting the world to nuclear zero.  Thanks very much.

MS. KELLEHER:  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Well, I thank my colleagues on the panel for having been so receptive to discipline.  This gives us then slightly more than half an hour in which to have some good questions and some discussion.  So may I ask you to identify yourself when you make your question and also say to whom it is directed.  Gentleman here in the middle?

Q:  I’m Miles Pomper from the Monterey Institute.  This is a question for Jan and Marek, following up on one of Jan’s remarks.  I was intrigued by your mention of the French arsenal and sort of the idea of having it as an umbrella for NATO.  What do you think the real prospects are of doing that, of bringing them into the nuclear planning group and those kind of institutions and how would that work, and I wonder from Marek how much that would serve the function of reassurance in the absence of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe?

MS. KELLEHER:  Jan, first?  You have to punch the little button.

MR. LODAL:  Okay, punch the little button.  I apologize for fumbling with papers, but just as a contingency here, I printed out the relevant parts of the livre blanc on this subject, which would be interesting.  But anyway, I can’t find them so I’ll quit fumbling with the papers.  I think there’s no prospect of that happening as long as the U.S. weapons are there.  They actually serve as something of an impediment to a different approach.  I think that if the nuclear umbrella is redefined away from physical geographical deployment, and by the way that’s the least effective part of the nuclear umbrella.  The broader U.S. strategic force is undoubtedly the more effective part of the nuclear umbrella.  

If you think you really need it against – it has to be Russia.  Nobody else could possibly attack Europe, even though we say they’re not an enemy and they don’t have the capability and we’re not worried about it.  So we have a nuclear umbrella against someone we say is not an enemy and we say the main part of it are these things on the ground which can’t be used and aren’t very effective; so none of this really makes much sense.  

On the other hand, if a different strategic approach to what constitutes a nuclear umbrella could be fortunate then the French might came into that because it wouldn’t necessarily require any change in the way they operate or the way they plan or it wouldn’t really require them to revisit their basic approach to nuclear weapons.  I don’t think this is an immediate prospect and I wouldn’t put it high on the list of things to try to achieve because I think that a lot of groundwork needs to be done before you get to that point.  But at some point, it ought to be possible.


MR. SZCYGIEL:  Thank you for this interesting question.  I think that we can say that in the long term, definitely there will be some kind of convergence of views in this respect, and France is very actively promoting their own perception of the role of nuclear arsenal and as was mentioned here, it was presented in the white book two years ago and in the framework of new NATO strategic concept, it was quite interesting discussion about the relations also between NATO nuclear posture and possible development of NATO missile defense in this context.  

I think what is really important from the French perspective is the continued certain level of autonomy in this respect, national autonomy from the French perspective.  They are also very sensitive when we are mentioning or when any kind of discussion is being conducted on the relations between strategic and nonstrategic weapons because of the special nature of the French nuclear arsenals.  So the declaratory policy here from the French perspective is slightly different.  

I think that since you mentioned kind of long-term perspective, it would be important really to find some kind of compensation for those core functions of NATO nuclear weapons that were mentioned – that I mentioned quoting nuclear posture review, and possibly this missile-defense system in its full shape, as envisaged in phased adaptive approach concept, will serve as an instrument of increasing the coherence of NATO.  I mentioned also the requirement that is very important with respect to this deterrence review that will be probably conducted after Lisbon summit.  So it should be really inclusive.  So it should take into account the views of all NATO members, including France because it is a kind of precondition for the credibility of the outcome of this review.  Thank you.

MS. KELLEHER:  Thank you, and I very much would like to only add, as it’s not just a theoretical question, given the difficulties that we’ve observed even to have French, British agreement on how to conduct joint submarine patrols that have now taken – is it three or is it four years to attempt to work out after the Saint Malo.  Jan, you’d like to comment on this as well?

MR. LODAL:  Yes, I found the French language.  Nuclear deterrence remains an essential concept of national security.  It is the ultimate guarantee of the security and independence of France.  The sole purpose of the nuclear deterrent is to prevent any state originating aggression against the vital interest of the nation wherever it may come from and in whatever shape or form.  Now, if you combine that with Article 5, I think the French are in the game legally and so this isn’t really that far off.  Now, I think a lot of what is implied by these particular words is not realistic and should be modified.  But they certainly are more than adequate to provide for French participation in a broader NATO nuclear umbrella.

MS. KELLEHER:  Gentleman in the back?  Yes, you.

Q:  Paul Ingram from the British American Security Information Council, and Oliver’s collaborator.  I wanted to raise the issue of deterrence here with respect to the deployment of sub-strategic warheads in Europe because for all the reasons that Jan went into, there really isn’t a great deal of military deterrent value to these deployments.  

But I wanted to fire at Jan a question here.  Is the value not so much in terms of the diplomatic assets that they bring vis-à-vis negotiations with Russia, so much as internal to NATO and I think that’s what Marek was getting on to, where he was outlining the way in which the Polish and other members of Central European states actually see this as a way of ensuring that their allies any negotiations to allow or get rid of them is a useful way to ensure that their allies take their concerns more seriously and those of us who went to Poland recently for the workshop, have been to Turkey and elsewhere for our workshops, have really picked up on this idea that these concerns haven’t been taken seriously.  

So my question to Marek is do you feel in more recent times over the last few months as a direct result of these debates that those concerns are being taken seriously and is it now not time for those Central European states to recognize that they have played their hand here and that it’s in everybody’s interest now to withdraw these nuclear weapons once those concerns – as those concerns are being taken seriously and that we move forward together as an alliance rather than holding guns at each other’s heads, which is not conducive to the coherence that you’ve been talking about when it comes to nuclear weapons?

MS. KELLEHER:  I think, Paul, we have your point and perhaps we’ll give Marek a chance to comment please.

MR. SZCYGIEL:  Thank you.  Yes, our position on this issue was motivated to large degree by also some expressions of rationed military doctrine regarding possible use or application of tactical nuclear weapons and believe me, this issue is perceived in Poland but probably in some of our Central European neighboring countries as kind of biggest single security threat currently or concern that we currently experience, especially taking into account the scenario of the last year exercises – maybe they were exercises – conducted by Russia armed forces on the territory of Belarus and northern Russia.  

So this is real concern.  But we see also certain value in conducting this policy of more openness and transparency.  We see big value in also talking about reducing the role of nuclear weapons and we find NATO Russia council as very important and useful instrument that could serve as a kind of forum or platform to discuss those issues.  But I’m afraid we would be rather cautious when agreeing on kind of unilateral actions, a kind of unilateral zero option on the side of NATO.  This is not about kind of blackmailing each other or trying to keep the current status quo.  

But rather to achieve kind of mutually beneficial results on both sides -- and here I don’t think that this is a kind of zero-sum game and to certain degree I think we can start with some basic transparency and confidence building measures that would reduce this level of insecurity, especially in the countries located near Russian borders -- so this is why I mentioned this reciprocity as a kind of precondition for further steps, further possible amendments of the NATO nuclear policy because without this kind of step-by-step approach, and without this reciprocity, we also risk to undermine the cohesion of NATO and we could undermine possibly also kind of regional stability in some crucial parts of Europe.

MS. KELLEHER:  Oliver wanted to come in on this.

MR. MEIER:  Yes, just very briefly to expand on what Marek has said, I think the discussion actually in terms of linkages to Russian reciprocity had moved on before the – in the context of discussion a new strategic concept and the two Polish – Swedish and the Polish and Norwegian papers have been very helpful in highlighting steps short of a formal agreement with Russia on tactical nuclear weapons that both sides can take to move forward on this issue.  

My fear is that the new strategic concept is making this linkage stronger than is necessary by explicitly highlighting and placing this in the context of the discrepancy between the two stockpiles, implying that NATO should only move forward if there’s an agreement, a formal agreement with Russia on tactical nuclear weapons.  That I think would be a step backward and that’s the danger I see and that’s one of the issues where I think the new strategic concept may be locking NATO in and would prevent real progress basically until we have an agreement with Russia, which is going to take many, many years, as we heard on the first panel, or until we have a new strategic concept.  

So that’s one of the issue areas where I think the new strategic concept should be more open to leave more options for Europeans and NATO and Russia to move forward on this issue.  That’s my concern, that this is one of the issue areas where the text will be highlighting this link more strongly than is actually necessary and stronger than what you just highlighted, if I’m not mistaken.

MS. KELLEHER:  I think, Jan, maybe you might say also – you have a comment and also perhaps if you would speculate the degree to which our recent election may have changed the importance of this particular question of assumed symmetry or at least an assumed tradeoff.

MR. LODAL:  Well, let me just say first that I disagree strongly with one phrase Marek used and that – when he talked about this trying to voice some kind of unilateral change.  Okay, we have a nuclear umbrella.  Those weapons forward deployed in Europe are somewhere between a tenth of 1 percent and minus-10-percent value in that nuclear umbrella and you can ask any military person, including Gen. Cartwright who said it publicly, about that and they’ll tell you that.  

They add to crisis instability.  They’re good targets and were things to go very badly very rapidly and there be a return to some kind of confrontation between Russia and NATO, probably the first thing the military would recommend at that point is to withdraw them and get them out of their vulnerable position because in an actual military situation, you’d want them out.  So that’s why I say minus-10 percent.  

So we have this overall nuclear umbrella and yes, we should talk about how that works and there is a lot of things we can do.  There are many ideas.  I don’t know what the right answers are.  It might make sense, and I kind of like the idea, of having other NATO officers at and integrated with U.S. nuclear operations and not having a say in their use but being liaison people there.  That could be more helpful, changes in the way we plan for the use of the broader strategic force.  There’s a lot of things that could be done there to make it clear that he umbrella is not just words but that it’s reality and that it in fact is linked.  All of those would be better.  

So I think that we need to focus on what is it that we’re trying to achieve here and do these particular weapons try to achieve it.  Now, I’m getting ahead of what I recommended because I recommended that NATO undertake a posture review to come to these conclusions.  So I’m telegraphing a little bit where I think that ought to come out.  But the key thing right now is that these things should not be linked to the Russia tactical nuclear weapons.  

Russia has no excuse for keeping these weapons.  They promised time after time that they would be transparent and that they would follow up on the presidential initiatives to which they agreed to remove these.  Remember the U.S. pulled 5,000 weapons out of Europe.  We have 200 left.  So let’s put this into context and you know we pulled the 5,000 out and it didn’t exactly seem to tear the alliance apart.  That wasn’t the problem here.  So we need to think about that.  As far as the politics of the situation, I don’t think that it’s such a huge sea change in this area.  The president retains the primary responsibility for these matters and for moving forward and much of what I’ve suggested can be done without treaty ratification.  

I also believe that failure to ratify the New START treaty would be very damaging, even though – and this is another subject – I’m not very happy with the New START treaty and I’m not very happy that we took that approach to try to rebuild our relationship with Russia.  As I said in my remarks, I think we should have moved to address more fundamental questions directly with Russia.  

But nonetheless, now that it’s done, it certainly serves the purposes that you’ve heard enunciated here earlier and it should be ratified.  I think that’s where the political situation has its main salience right now, not on these broader questions of the details of how we construct an effective nuclear umbrella.  That will serve us well as we move on a path to eliminate all nuclear weapons.

MS. KELLEHER:  Marek wants to come back.  So Marek?

MR. SZCYGIEL:  Very briefly, yes, we are of the opinion that we should tackle this issue with a kind of multi-track approach, so to say to include in this – I don’t like the word tradeoff, but kind of future negotiations or approach to include other aspects of deterrence – conventional deterrence but also issues related to defense systems.  

This is probably one of the possible openings also with Russia, judging from the signals, reactions we hear from Moscow, that maybe we would be able to agree on some kind of steps regarding tactical nuclear weapons if we make this agenda broader and at the same time, I think that this existing disparity in tactical nuclear arsenals is having more destabilizing effect than the presence of those weapons, as such.  So in order to tackle this issue of disparity, we need to actually keep this link.  I agree with Oliver that maybe this is kind of a too far-reaching approach.  But in order to start the process, this is probably the only bargaining chip we have right now.  Thank you.

MS. KELLEHER:  Sorry, but I think this interchange in the panel has brought out a lot of the points that perhaps some of you would have touched on in your questions.  We have about 10 minutes max left.  So I’m going to start boxing questions together.  Yes, please?  Who are you and to whom are you speaking?

Q:  Mike Gerson, Center for Naval Analyses.  Actually it’s not really directed at anyone specifically, but just the discussion about the forthcoming Lisbon summit reminded me of another NATO summit in Lisbon from a long time ago, which is 1952, and the adoption of the Lisbon Force Goals, which of course were never met.  So I guess just thinking about the parallel there, part of that was because that building up of conventional forces was incredibly expensive and rather than sort of spending the money and putting the effort in war-torn Europe, it sort of made sense to sort of rely on nuclear weapons as an asymmetric response.  

So I guess my question is in thinking through this, much of the discussion about what must be done to maintain the trans-Atlantic link and maintain the cohesion of the alliance if the nuclear weapons are removed kind of seems to – you hear it’s what the U.S. has to do – sort of, what does the U.S. need to do?  My question is what are the NATO countries willing to do?  Are they actually willing to put the money and the effort toward creating a sort of robust nonnuclear deterrent or sort of retaining this capability and having this reassurance policy just provide a sort of nice way of not having to really think through these issues and spend large sums of money.

MS. KELLEHER:  Another question, I think there was one in the middle there, someone?

Q:  Arie Church, Air Force Magazine, and it’s predominately for Mr. Meier and it really piggybacks on what my colleague here said and that is Russia premises its buildup of tactical nuclear arsenal, or rather retaining tactical nuclear arsenal on the fact that it can’t afford the conventional forces, possibly to confront the threats that it perceives.  We are fast approaching that point across Europe in countries like Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and even the United Kingdom following our recent defense review.  Is it a bit premature to declare tactical nuclear weapons as a bygone and sort of tired weapons system that has no relevance for today?

MS. KELLEHER:  Anyone care to take a crack at that?  Jan?

MR. LODAL:  I’ll take a crack at that.  I think that you have to go beyond just the idea that wow, these things make a very big bang and they’re really cheap and therefore we can use them instead of something else and think about okay, what would be involved in having any leader of any country in the West make a decision to escalate to the use of nuclear weapons and what would that mean to the world at that point and in the future if that occurred and here was an escalation to the use of nuclear weapons, particularly if the purpose of these things, as the Russians seem to believe, is to substitute for the lack of conventional capability.  

So presumably, this first use would occur in a situation in which they were needed because the conventional forces weren’t adequate of whichever side was losing the battle.  So this is the Cold War model.  

Now, what happens then?  The answer is the world is changed forever and the answer is it’s changed in a way that we really don’t want to occur.  So the reason we’ve supported the nuclear firewall, the reason we have all these words about how – and the U.S. posture statement says this very strongly – nuclear weapons haven’t been used and they must never be used, is because of this kind of thinking.  So the realty is nuclear weapons cannot make up for this alleged weakness.  That’s reality number one.  

Reality number two is there isn’t really a whole lot of this alleged weakness because I don’t like the way the Europeans are cutting their defense budget.  I think that the burden-sharing is quite unfair and unrealistic between the U.S. and Europe.  I agree with all of that and that’s causing a lot of problems.  But it is not causing the problem of all of a sudden allowing Soviet tank armies to rush across Europe, which is what we were worried about before because there are no Soviet tank armies.  They don’t exist and they can’t rush across Europe and the few tanks they do have could be plunked with precision guided munitions which didn’t exist during the Cold War fairly rapidly.  So they wouldn’t get very far.  

So we’ve got to think a step beyond this sort of general talk about, oh well, we can maybe somehow use these really big strong weapons to make up for these other weapons.  The reality is you can’t and you won’t be able to and so you better find a better way out of the box.

MS. KELLEHER:  Marek or Oliver, any comment?

MR. MEIER:  Yeah, thank you very much.  Just to address the last question first on is it too early to assume that tactical nuclear weapons are symbols of a bygone era because the Russians obviously still see them as important.  First of all, of course it’s very difficult to assess what is really driving Russian policies on tactical nuclear weapons and Miles and Nikolai Sokov have written a fairly I think good assessment as far as I can tell on the differentiation one needs to make also on the types of tactical nuclear weapons that Russia may value more than others, that it’s difficult to put them all in one basket.  

But what I also take away from what I’ve read and heard and spoken to the people is that the Russian position that NATO needs to move first on this, that this is linked also to the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe.  There is not much basis to that argument, that it’s very conventional position of course for Moscow to take because it places the ball in NATO’s court, but that the linkage between NATO’s tactical nuclear weapons and Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons, from that perspective may be exaggerated to put it carefully.  

The real question of course comes in when one takes into account this assumption in the nuclear posture review also that the role of nuclear deterrence in a regional context can be reduced in favor of missile defenses and advanced conventional capabilities.  I think there is a problem for Russia because the tradeoff that the United States would like to see in Europe in practically, that’s the problematic linkage for Russia.  So there’s an issue for both sides to sit down and talk about, how threat perceptions in that regard, particularly advanced conventional capabilities for example, what does that mean for Russian security and European security.  

That dialogue hasn’t really been started yet and again, I think the tactical nuclear weapons that we still have in Europe and also the Russian tactical nuclear weapons to some degree are obstacles to having an honest dialogue about this because there’s a lot of propaganda going around on why these weapons are obstacles to further progress on having this dialogue, how you can have conventional capabilities in that regard.  

Finally I wanted to comment on there was this question on what kind of leadership does the U.S. need to show on this issue and what do others need to do.  I think the United States had a great opportunity in the nuclear posture review to take this debate forward.  They missed that opportunity.  I think if the nuclear posture review would have come out more strongly in favor of changing NATO’s nuclear posture, there would have been very little resistance, even among Central Europeans, to doing that. It kind of was agnostic on this issue for all kinds of reasons.  So that kind of left the debate unresolved.  

But I think also what Marek has said to me sounds like if this is not an issue, the weapons per se, that many Central Europeans, and Turkey also, does not really care about.  It’s part of the Article 5 discussion.  But I suppose –

MS. KELLEHER:  I think I’m going to cut you off there and give Marek a chance to make his final comment because we’re standing between people and their lunch.

MR SZCYGIEL:  Thank you.  I promise to be brief.  Yes, we see that tendency to reduce defense spending also now during this time of budgetary constraints in many European countries and unfortunately – well, the obvious truth is the only country that is able to project power globally and provide credible security guarantees is the United States.  

Despite some efforts to coordinate closer defense cooperation within European Union, this cooperation is still very limited and it is not creating a kind of added value.  Where E.U. and European members of NATO are trying to contribute more substantially is kind of civil military cooperation and civil crisis management operations.  This is the capability that is a little bit less expensive, which is more politically acceptable and where E.U. is trying to project its soft power more, I would say, globally.  

But I think that also important issue in this aspect that we discuss of tactical nuclear weapons is that, you know, there is number of processes that are going in parallel and I have in mind also the discussion about the modernization of CFE regime and here we hear very promising response from Russia.  Russia has some priorities in this respect.  But there is also a big degree of readiness to discuss issues of general concern to the future of the regime of conventional arms control.  

Since, I think it was mentioned here a couple of times, Russia is perceiving tactical nuclear weapons as a kind of instrument of balancing perceived NATO conventional superiority, maybe we could to some degree address Russian concerns in combination of tactical nuclear aspects and conventional aspects of arms control.  Thank you.

MS. KELLEHER:  ON this positive note, I’m going to bring to an end what I think has been a very interesting and rich discussion and suggest that you go and get your lunch.  Be back at 12:30, right, as quickly as you can, so that we are prepared for Rose Gottemoeller’s address.  Thank you.  (Applause.)


Posted: November 8, 2010