Keep U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe, Task Force Says

An advisory panel to the Defense Department yesterday cautioned against removing U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Europe, the Washington Post reported (see GSN, Jan. 8).

"The presence of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe remains a pillar of NATO unity," according to the report, which largely focused on failures in the Defense Department's oversight of its nuclear mission. "Some allies have been troubled to learn that during the last decade some senior U.S. military leaders have advocated for the unilateral removal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe."

The report adds: "As long as NATO members rely on U.S. nuclear weapons for deterrence -- and as long as they maintain their own dual-capable aircraft as part of that deterrence -- no action should be taken to remove them without a thorough and deliberate process of consultation."

The Obama administration's "most difficult challenge" upon taking office on Jan. 20 "will be in persuading this nation of the abiding requirement for nuclear forces," said the task force, which was led by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger. It urged the administration to pursue modernization rather than the planned decommissioning of nuclear-tipped cruise missiles carried by aircraft and submarines. The weapons have "political value" and have provided "crucial deterrence and assurance elements" in Europe and elsewhere, the report says.

The Defense Department pulled its cruise missiles from Europe in the 1990s. It is believed to maintain about 400 B-61 nuclear bombs in Europe (see GSN, June 26, 2008).

President-elect Barack Obama has expressed support for total nuclear disarmament, but said in July that the United States should keep a reduced arsenal while other nuclear powers hold onto their weapons, the Post reported (Walter Pincus, Washington Post, Jan. 9).

January 9, 2009
About

An advisory panel to the Defense Department yesterday cautioned against removing U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Europe, the Washington Post reported (see GSN, Jan. 8).