Former Warsaw Pact States Value U.S. Nuclear Arms as Deterrent to Russia

Global Security Newswire Staff
April 15, 2014, 8:54 a.m.

Some NATO mem­ber states find in­creas­ing value in U.S. nuc­le­ar arms de­ployed in Europe, amid con­tin­ued wor­ries about Rus­si­an ac­tions in Ukraine.

Cur­rent and former of­fi­cials from Po­land and the Czech Re­pub­lic spoke of the im­port­ance of main­tain­ing the role that nuc­le­ar weapons play in NATO in a Tues­day New­s­week art­icle.

“Nuc­le­ar de­terrence is a very im­port­ant factor that NATO has at its dis­pos­al, and it’s be­com­ing in­creas­ingly im­port­ant,” Pol­ish Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Bur­eau chief Stan­islaw Koziej said in an in­ter­view.

Jiri Schneider, who served as the Czech Re­pub­lic’s first deputy for­eign min­is­ter un­til two months ago, said it was im­port­ant for NATO to “show some muscle” in the face of Rus­sia’s on­go­ing destabil­iz­ing ac­tions in Ukraine and else­where.

Sources close to Schneider said that means con­tinu­ing to de­ploy U.S. B-61 nuc­le­ar war­heads in Europe and main­tain­ing the air cap­ab­il­ity to de­liv­er the grav­ity bombs in an at­tack. Less than 200 of the weapons are broadly un­der­stood to be fielded in five NATO coun­tries — Bel­gi­um, Ger­many, Italy, the Neth­er­lands and Tur­key.

Be­fore the re­cent ten­sions with Rus­sia, there was a strong move­ment among some West­ern NATO mem­bers to send the tac­tic­al weapons back to the United States, based primar­ily on the ar­gu­ment that their de­ploy­ment did not provide much mil­it­ary value to the al­li­ance. Pro­ponents of that view now ac­know­ledge there is little chance of a tac­tic­al nuc­le­ar with­draw­al hap­pen­ing in the near fu­ture.

A March pa­per by the Cen­ter for European Policy Ana­lys­is re­com­men­ded that NATO weigh end­ing its vol­un­tary pro­hib­i­tion against the de­ploy­ment of U.S. non­stra­tegic weapons in Cent­ral and East­ern Europe.

“Nuc­le­ar de­terrence in Europe should have some kind of European par­ti­cip­a­tion, simply for reas­ons of bur­den shar­ing,” Schneider said.

Cur­rently, the five NATO states that host U.S. grav­ity bombs each main­tain nuc­le­ar-cap­able air­craft that can de­liv­er the weapons in an at­tack. But many of those planes are sched­uled to be re­tired in the next dec­ade and not all five of the coun­tries are plan­ning to buy dual-role planes to re­place them.

Schneider sug­ges­ted the Czech Re­pub­lic could be will­ing to par­ti­cip­ate in a po­ten­tial new NATO basing ar­range­ment for the U.S. weapons.

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