Skip to comments.U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe Remain Off NATO’s Agenda
Posted on 06/26/2005 8:55:35 AM PDT by Excuse_My_Bellicosity
WASHINGTON The NATO alliance so far has refrained from considering the withdrawal of hundreds of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from military bases in Europe, despite growing calls to do so by members of European governments and political figures (see GSN, April 22).
Opponents had hoped to see the question discussed at a biannual meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on June 9. That did not occur, NATO spokesman James Appathurai said in a telephone interview yesterday.
During a classified meeting of NATOs Nuclear Planning Group during the session, he said, German Defense Minister Peter Struck described the state of internal discussions in his country, but the group did not address the matter.
Struck did not ask for any comment, nor was there any comment by the other ministers, Appathurai said.
The subject also is not on the agenda for NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffers meetings with Russian leaders in Moscow today, he said.
The secretary general wouldnt talk on that issue unless the allies wanted him to do it, Appathurai said.
The U.S. nongovernmental Natural Resources Defense Council in a report this year estimated there are as many as 480 U.S. B61 bombs in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey and the United Kingdom. No official confirmation is available (see GSN, Feb. 10).
The bombs have yields that can range from 0.3 to 170 kilotons, according to the report. The respective yields of the U.S. warheads used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II were 15 and 21 kilotons.
Critics have said the weapons presence undermines the credibility of NATO nations when arguing for tougher international nuclear nonproliferation measures, as well as efforts to account for and reduce Russian tactical nuclear weapons, believed to number in the thousands.
NATO maintains the bombs are necessary for its security. The ministers in a joint communique released after the meeting said the alliance affirms the fundamental political purpose of NATOs nuclear forces: to preserve peace and prevent coercion.
The nuclear forces based in Europe and committed to NATO continue to provide an essential political and military link between the European and North American members of the Alliance, the communiqu says.
In April, the opposition German Liberal Party proposed a resolution calling for the weapons removal from the country. The resolution was referred to a committee for consideration. Also that month, the Belgian Senate called for the eventual removal of the weapons from Belgium and Europe.
At the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty conference last month, German Foreign Affairs Minister Joschka Fischer said his government favored reducing and eliminating substrategic nuclear weapons worldwide. The European Union in a German-authored working paper to the conference urged the United States and Russia to move toward reducing and eliminating those weapons.
On Wednesday, former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara published an opinion piece in the Financial Times urging a gradual withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe, which they said could be used to achieve Russian nuclear accountability and reductions and close a dangerous chapter of European [Cold War] history.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said early this month that Moscow would not negotiate reductions of its tactical nuclear weapons with countries that based such weapons outside their borders, apparently referring to the United States (see GSN June 3).
An unidentified U.S. diplomat last month told the International Herald Tribune the weapons would not be removed from Germany.
Oliver Meier, international representative in Berlin of the U.S.-based Arms Control Association, said, European governments shy away from urging a change in NATOs nuclear weapons policy because they fear repercussions for transatlantic relations.
Natural Resources Defense Council consultant Hans Kristensen, though, said there are indications that some European governments would like to see the weapons stay, or at least are dragging their heels.
This is not a priority issue for disagreement with the United States, he said.
The way for NATO to begin considering the idea would be for a member to request a formal discussion, said spokesman Appathurai, a Canadian.
However, there is now no movement toward that, he said.
A lot of discussion I see in the press, but very little in government circles on this issue, in terms of changing policy or posture on nuclear weapons, he said.
I have plenty of gripes about NATO, but they're right on this one. Right now, they're not even entertaining discussion on the topic. Good for them.
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