US nuclear arms in Europe should now be removed: Senior expert
A prominent international affairs expert says it is time for the United States to remove its tactical nuclear arsenal in Europe as the dangerous stockpiles “serve no legitimate strategic purpose.”
“[T]here is no good reason to keep them (the US tactical nuclear arsenal) there (Europe) and plenty of good reasons to remove them,” Stephen M. Walt wrote on the Foreign Policy website.
“It’s hard to imagine that these weapons are helping Dutch, German, or Turkish elites sleep soundly at night, or helping reassure their respective populations. If anything, local populations should worry about having these devices on their soil,” he added.
The senior international relations author described the situation as “rather ludicrous,” saying the theories that justified these weapons during the Cold War “never made sense” to him in the first place either.
“There is no threat of a conventional invasion of Western Europe, and thus no need to ‘link’ the US strategic deterrent to Europe’s defense via tactical weapons physically deployed on the continent,” he wrote.
Walt suggested that the US failure to discard the weapons will undermine the basic logic of nuclear disarmament, and threaten global efforts to “de-legitimize” nuclear weapons as status symbols, thereby dealing a blow to broader nuclear security objectives.
The persistence of the weapons, he added, will also question the pledges that the United States made when it signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Though there is no single agreed-upon definition of a tactical nuclear weapon, it is generally characterized by a lower yield and shorter range than a long-range (strategic) nuclear weapon. Tactical nuclear weapons are also sometimes referred to as battlefield nuclear weapons.
The US has not made public the number of its tactical nuclear weapons, but according to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, the US is believed to deploy approximately 500 tactical nuclear warheads, including about 200 B61 gravity bombs deployed in five NATO states (Belgium, Italy, Turkey, Germany, and the Netherlands).
The US also maintains approximately 700-800 additional tactical warheads in storage.
The original pretext offered by the US for deploying the tactical nuclear weapons in Europe was to deter a Soviet conventional attack on Western Europe.
US military leaders increasingly suggest that the European deployment serves no military purpose, and a growing group of NATO members, including host nations such as Germany and Belgium, have called for the removal of tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.
Given their small size and mobility, tactical nuclear weapons are also particularly vulnerable to loss or theft.
- The Heritage Foundation’s Rhetorical Arms Race (tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com)