Draft NATO Strategy Calls for Nuclear Disarmament

(Oct. 1) -A U.S. B-61 nuclear gravity bomb body, shown in an aircraft hangar. NATO member nations appear set in November to consider a draft strategic concept calling for nuclear disarmament (U.S. Air Force/Natural Resources Defense Council).
(Oct. 1) -A U.S. B-61 nuclear gravity bomb body, shown in an aircraft hangar. NATO member nations appear set in November to consider a draft strategic concept calling for nuclear disarmament (U.S. Air Force/Natural Resources Defense Council).

The 28 NATO member nations have received a preliminary version of an updated strategic concept containing a divisive call for the elimination of nuclear weapons, the New York Times reported yesterday (see GSN, Sept. 8).

NATO leaders resolved at their previous summit in April 2009 to update the military alliance's strategy to better address contemporary security needs. If they reach consensus on the strategy at the group's next summit, scheduled for Nov. 19-20 in Portugal, the document would require approval by all NATO governments.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in recent months revised the original draft mission statement put forward in May by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright and other issue experts (see GSN, May 21). Security experts said the first draft was overly verbose and vague in some areas.

“Rasmussen does not want endless debates, revisions and arguments over the positioning of paragraphs, sentences and even commas,” NATO spokesman James Appathurai said.

Rasmussen hoped discussions this month by Cabinet-level officials would shed light on "which issues will go to the wire" for the November session in Lisbon, according to diplomats.

“So far, the nuclear issue has taken center stage,” one high-level NATO diplomat said. “The nuclear weapons issue has boiled down to this: Is NATO going to retain the status quo by keeping its weapons for deterrence, or is NATO finally going to give arms control and disarmament precedence?”

Five European nations -- Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey -- are believed to house roughly 200 U.S. B-61 nuclear gravity bombs.

Calls by Germany and other European states for the document to prominently promote the elimination of nuclear weapons have placed those nations at odds with France, a nuclear-armed state that believes NATO involvement in nuclear matters could threaten French self-determination.

“If there is a sticking point in reaching agreement, then this is it,” a German diplomat familiar with the document said.

“You can understand why France is not happy with the section on disarmament. It does not want its nuclear deterrent to be in any way dragged into NATO discussions,” said Frederic Bozo, a security specialist with the Sorbonne University in Paris (see related GSN story, today).

Poland and Baltic nations expressed concern that rolling back NATO nuclear deployments could undermine the idea of collective security on which the alliance is premised.

“U.S. nuclear weapons are regarded as a strong symbol of the credibility of the American commitment to the security of Europe,” said NATO Defense College Research Director Karl-Heinz Kamp. “Eliminating the American nuclear presence in Europe, even if the number of warheads is small, could further erode alliance cohesion at a time when reassurance and solidarity are at the heart of the alliance debate on its new strategic concept.”

“Deterrence should and will remain central to NATO,” Latvian Defense Minister Imants Liegis said, adding his country was otherwise "pleased with the draft document so far."

"It meets our concerns, especially over NATO remaining an alliance committed to collective security," Liegis said. “Actually, the document is surprisingly lucid and crisp.”

British officials did not address the document's disarmament language. “We have received the draft. We are studying it carefully,” said one British government source. “There will be extensive discussions.”

“We are facing important foreign policy decisions this autumn,” said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who this week discussed NATO strategy and elimination of nuclear weapons with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “Secretary General Rasmussen has circulated a draft that we believe provides a good basis for further discussions and that takes up many of the suggestions that we have made in the process of preparing this new strategic concept,” he said.

An additional secret paper prepared by Rasmussen outlines how the alliance would respond to nuclear, conventional and other strikes. “If you think the strategic concept is classified, you cannot imagine how secretive the operational paper is and will remain,” said one diplomat from East Europe (Judy Dempsey, New York Times, Sept. 30).

Thirty-six former high-level European officials called in a statement Monday for the new NATO strategic concept to "promote both nuclear and conventional arms control and disarmament based on greater international transparency and accountability."

"NATO should make disarmament a core element of its approach to providing security," the statement says. "This alliance, building on the Harmel report, has always combined deterrence with détente."

In addition, the strategy should limit the role of nuclear weapons to deterring a nuclear strike and call for curbs on the role played by nuclear weapons in other security policies.

"In addition, we call upon the alliance to now review its entire nuclear policy and posture with a view to facilitating progress in arms control, in a manner consistent with effective burden sharing and alliance cohesion, effective deterrence and a demonstrable commitment to collective defense," the document states.

The statement's signatories included former British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, former British Defense Secretary Des Browne, former European Commission President Jacques Delors, former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers and former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (European Leadership Network release, Sept. 27).

Russia requested additional information on NATO intentions before responding to the alliance's invitation to participate in dialogue during the summit, Reuters reported yesterday (see GSN, Sept. 27).

Moscow wants "to better understand where this strategic concept is leading and what it will determine about relations with Russia and NATO's approach to international law," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Rossiiskaya Gazeta in comments published yesterday.

"There are many voices saying NATO must set out in this concept its right to use force in any region of the world" without U.N. Security Council backing, he said. "This would contradict the U.N. Charter and the principle of the rule of law in world affairs" (Reuters, Sept. 30).

Meanwhile, Russia and the United States are soon expected to finish a collaborative assessment of threats posed by issues including WMD and missile proliferation, ITAR-Tass quoted Lavrov as saying.

"Special attention is paid to the challenges in the area of missile proliferation, since such issues are directly linked with problems of [missile defense]," he said (ITAR-Tass, Oct. 1).

October 1, 2010
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The 28 NATO member nations have received a preliminary version of an updated strategic concept containing a divisive call for the elimination of nuclear weapons, the New York Times reported yesterday (see GSN, Sept. 8).