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Poland, Norway Call For NATO Tactical Arms Control Talks With Russia
NATO should use the coming high-profile summit in Chicago to commit to new engagement with Russia over the two former Cold War antagonists' nuclear arsenals, the foreign ministers of Poland and Norway urged in a Monday letter published in the New York Times (see GSN, May 11).
"The Chicago summit should send a strong signal of NATO’s resolve to engage with Russia on nuclear issues," Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and Norwegian Foreign Minster Jonas Gahr Store wrote.
The May 20-21 meeting of the 28-member alliance is expected to focus principally on reaching agreement on a drawdown of NATO forces in Afghanistan and on discussions of next steps in the construction of a ballistic missile shield in Europe.
The foreign policy chiefs, though, said attention must be given to tactical nuclear arms fielded on the continent.
The United States is believed to have close to 200 short-range weapons in five NATO member countries -- Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey -- as leftovers from the Cold War. Russia, meanwhile, is estimated to have roughly 2,000 nonstrategic nuclear warheads "in central storage" and another 5,500 weapons that have been removed from service prior to possible disassembly.
In their letter, Sikorski and Store noted the lack of any arms reduction pact that covers nonstrategic arsenals. The 2010 New START accord only addresses strategic weapons; it binds both Russia and the United States to each by 2018 reduce such deployed arsenals to 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems.
"Over two decades after the Cold War ended, thousands of tactical nuclear weapons remain in Europe," the ministers wrote. "We still have not managed to establish any credible system of accounting for these weapons. We do not know the exact size of the U.S. and Russian arsenals, nor are we certain of their storage locations."
While applauding Washington and Moscow for the significant nuclear arms reductions enacted since the height of the Cold War, Sikorski and Store said the continued absence of a tactical arms control accord jeopardizes the pledge made by NATO at the 2010 summit in Lisbon to work to create the conditions necessary for total nuclear disarmament.
"In Chicago, NATO will conclude its Deterrence and Defense Posture Review. A readjustment of the mix of nuclear and conventional capabilities will, by necessity, reflect scarcer resources. But the new policy must also facilitate a serious and constructive nuclear weapons dialogue with Russia," the officials said.
They urged the initiation of formal Russian-U.S. discussions that would specifically focus on nonstrategic arms. "Such talks could inject a positive note into NATO-Russia relations, bring about greater transparency and enhance mutual trust. This would then increase the likelihood of further weapons reductions and bring us closer to our goal of eliminating tactical nuclear weapons form Europe."
President Obama has signaled his interest in new arms control negotiations with Russia that would encompass not only tactical arms but also strategic weapons and deployed and nondeployed stocks. Little action is expected during an election year, and Russia's frustration with ongoing U.S. missile defense activities in Europe could prove an obstacle to any future talks (Sikorski/Store, New York Times, May 14).
A "jumbo ministerial" session of NATO foreign policy and defense chiefs last month considered the findings of the Deterrence and Defense Posture Review, which will be delivered to the Chicago summit, former NATO Secretary General George Robertson and two other issue specialists said in a new issue paper.
"As we understand it, the question of basing nuclear weapons in Europe has produced a recommendation that the current posture be maintained, although with an eye to being able to make reductions in weapons numbers if an arms agreement with Russia can be reached," Robertson, former U.S. National Security Council arms control official Franklin Miller and former State Department deputy chief for policy planning Kori Schake said in the Atlantic Council document.
The review is also said to back individual "negative security assurances" from nuclear-armed NATO states France, the United Kingdom and the United States instead of pursuing an alliance-wide pledge not to employ or suggest use of such weapons against nations that do not possess atomic arms, according to the paper.
However, NATO members have reportedly dismissed a U.S. proposal for the alliance to declare that "the fundamental purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter the use of nuclear weapons against NATO.” There were worries, the experts said, that such a statement would disconnect the nuclear umbrella from the 2010 NATO Strategic Concept promise to “deter and defend against any threat of aggression, and against emerging security challenges where they threaten the fundamental security of individual allies or the alliance as a whole.”
Robertson and his co-authors called for leaders at the Chicago session to accept the nuclear recommendations and focus their energies on other matters.
"There will be strong external pressures on them not to do so. Already those same arms reductions experts who failed to convince new member governments that they did not need the presence of forward-based nuclear weapons to provide reassurance and linkage are calling for a new round of NATO work on alternative basing schemes," the issue paper states.
"While such a new round would provide great entertainment (and employment) for the nuclear arms control lobby, we believe that the alliance should regard the subject ... as closed," according to Robertston, Miller and Schake. "A new round of studies will simply continue to convince new members that the nuclear umbrella they sought shelter under by joining NATO can’t be counted on.
"Worse yet, it will distract time and attention from those issues which NATO really needs to address: the growing gap in capabilities between the United States and its NATO allies, managing draconian cuts in defense spending that are facing all NATO allies, setting out a post-2014 path for Afghanistan, determining an end-game for Kosovo, evaluating progress toward membership by several aspiring countries, and sharing perspectives on [President Vladimir] Putin’s Russia" (Atlantic Council release, May 2012).
Building Mutual Security in the Euro-Atlantic Region: Report Prepared for Presidents, Prime Ministers, Parliamentarians, and Publics
April 3, 2013
This report is the result of a Track II dialogue including distinguished former senior political leaders, senior military officers, defence officials, and security experts from Europe, Russia, and the United States.
April 2, 2013
An op-ed in The International Herald Tribune urging today's leaders to move decisively and permanently toward a new security strategy in the Euro-Atlantic region.
This article provides an overview of Russia’s historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.