Report: What NATO Countries Think About Tactical Nukes

Most NATO countries support withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe, only three oppose, according to interviews with NATO officials.

By Hans M. Kristensen

Two researchers from the Dutch peace group IKV Pax Christi have published a unique study that for the first time provides the public with an overview of what individual NATO governments think about non-strategic nuclear weapons and the U.S. deployment of nuclear bombs in Europe.

Their findings are as surprising as they are new: 14, or half of all NATO member states, actively support the end of the deployment in Europe; 10 more say they will not block a consensus decision to that end; and only three members say they oppose ending the deployment.

Anyone familiar with the debate will know that while there are many claims about what NATO governments think about the need for U.S. weapons in Europe, the documentation has been scarce – to say the least. Warnings against changing status quo are frequent and just yesterday a senior NATO official told me that, “no one in NATO supports withdrawal.”

The report, in contrast, finds – based on “interviews with every national delegation to NATO as well as NATO Headquarters Staff” – that there is overwhelming support in NATO for withdrawal.

The most surprising finding is probably that most of the Baltic States support withdrawal, only Lithuania does not.

Even Turkey, a country often said to be insisting on continued deployment, says it would not oppose a withdrawal.

The only real issue seems to be how a withdrawal would take place. The three opposing countries – one of which is France – block a potential consensus decision, a condition for 10 countries to support withdrawal.

The Obama administration needs to take a much more proactive role in leading NATO toward a decision to end the U.S. deployment in Europe. This can be done without ending extended deterrence and without weakening the U.S. commitment to NATO’s defense.

Background: IKV Pax Christi study | Nuclear Notebook: U.S. Nuclear Weapons In Europe, 2011

This publication was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

3 thoughts on “Report: What NATO Countries Think About Tactical Nukes

  1. Interesting link. Thx.

    But sorry to say, this study is pretty much hot air. For one to a very large degree it equates the B61 with tactical nuclear warheads, reducing the whole complex to the question of U.S. tactical nuclear warheads in Europa and thus making it a political question, and also by not raising the principal question of a tactical nuclear capability in Europe, eventually to be created and deployed by European countries. And then of course the fact that the B61 is always just a few flight hours away from Europe, no matter if it is lying in bunkers in Europe or in CONUS.

    Strange that the French are against withdrawal of U.S. warheads from Europe. Maybe that’s just an expression of the French “we don’t talk about nuclear” attitude. Maybe they also think that a powerful U.S. presence suits their interests vis-a-vis Germany …

  2. “Missile Defence could replace TNW as a practical and useful way of burden
    sharing according to roughly half of the Alliance.” according to the study.

    Odd use of logic.

    The Tacnukes are theoretically there to counterbalance ex-Soviet ones. Missile defense is allegedly there to counterbalance (in theory) the possible future Iranian nukes on possible future Iranian ICBMs. (Of course our DNI has said again that Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons programme).

    Not sure the two are related and the logic could be dangerous and invite unintended consequences.

  3. FAS 

    Interesting point about France’ use of the US to counterbalance Germany, why not. I would think that an astute observation. 

    It is also too soon after WWII and the Cold War to think the threat of war in Europe is not possible again. The “Arab spring” should be an indication of just how quickly security issues can manifest and spread, and how slow politics is to respond to change. 

    While I’m all for the elimination of nuclear weapons I am cautious about the scope of withdrawal in the next 20 years. Nuclear weapons have been the levy keeping the flood waters of global war at bay for over 50 years.  Once removed from europe an “out of sight out of mind” curtain will set in the minds of every European.  Even if nuclear weapons are brought back to bear during a crisis this will only serve to escalate the crisis.  Using them will be the only way of “reminding” the biligereent parties of the consequences.

     I’m not sure politicians are aware of this very likely possibility.  War is very inevitable during an energy crisis (2010), political uprising (from the right or left) or a good old fashioned fascist sprint across European or Caucasus borders. Probability would be even higher if the US economic crisis implodes in the next decade and US intervention is improbable. 

    We may just not be mature enough to deal with a nuclear free Europe.


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