WASHINGTON—With widening calls to move toward a world free of nuclear weapons, NATO’s nuclear policy will be high on the agenda during the Alliance’s November summit in Lisbon. In a new paper, Detlef Waechter writes that NATO members should endorse the approach outlined by Secretary of State Clinton in April calling for NATO to retain its nuclear capability but begin an internal process of rethinking its nuclear posture. This modest but realistic course signals a commitment to defending member states while also demonstrating progress on arms control and disarmament.
Key Policy Recommendations:
- Conduct a nuclear review. The short new NATO Strategic Concept is unlikely to give military planners the appropriate guidance for effectively implementing NATO’s nuclear policy. Its leaders should therefore task the NATO Council to conduct a review to be endorsed at the next summit meeting.
- Talk with Russia. Redeploying or eliminating NATO weapons should not be a precondition for negotiating with Russia, but an end result. Launching a dialogue on transparency, reductions, and redeployment needs to be the priority for the NATO–Russia Council meeting that will be attended by President Medvedev in Lisbon.
- Adopt a multi-track approach. Given Russia’s perception of its military inferiority, insulated talks solely on tactical nuclear weapons will ultimately fail. A multi-track approach combining tactical nuclear weapons, stockpiled U.S. strategic weapons, conventional arms control, and missile defense could help the Alliance reach its goal of a nuclear-weapon-free Europe. These negotiations cannot be formally linked but are convergent.
Achieving a Europe free of nuclear weapons "requires considerable will to compromise on the part of the United States, which owns the tactical nuclear weapons in Europe as well as the strategic weapons systems," Waechter writes. "But the result—a European continent free of nuclear weapons, a NATO reconciled with Russia, and an Alliance free to tackle emerging security threats—would certainly make the effort worthwhile."
Detlef Waechter is a German diplomat and a visiting fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He served on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s foreign and security policy team in the Federal Chancellery from 2007–2010, and from 2005 to 2007 served in the German Permanent Representation at NATO in Brussels.
The Carnegie Nuclear Policy Program is an internationally acclaimed source of expertise and policy thinking on nuclear industry, nonproliferation, security, and disarmament. Its multinational staff stays at the forefront of nuclear policy issues in the United States, Russia, China, Northeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East.
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