17 May 2010
NATO Mission Statement Supports Retaining Tactical Nukes
Global Security Newswire


A draft version of NATO's new mission statement calls for keeping U.S. tactical nuclear arms in Europe despite rising calls from some alliance states for the withdrawal of the Cold War-era weapons, the Associated Press reported today (see GSN , May 7).

U.S. troops conduct a nuclear weapons "recapture and recovery exercise" at Incirlik Air Force Base in Turkey in April 2003. A preliminary update to NATO's mission statement provides for the continued deployment of U.S. nonstrategic nuclear weapons in Europe (U.S. Air Force/Natural Resources Defense Council).

"As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO should continue to maintain secure and reliable nuclear forces ... at the minimum level required by the prevailing security environment," according to the statement, released today.

Germany, Belgium and other NATO states have urged removal of an estimated 200 U.S. nonstrategic arms that are thought to be located at six military bases in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. The arms are a remnant of the thousands of tactical nuclear weapons deployed at the height of the Cold War. It is suspected that Russia continues to field at least 2,000 tactical weapons inside its borders.

The new posture also spells out the need for a robust missile defense to defend against potential ballistic missile attacks from Iran and urges greater cooperation with Moscow in this area (see GSN, May 6).

"Missile defense is most effective when it is a joint enterprise, and cooperation ... between the alliance and its partners -- especially Russia -- is highly desirable," the document states.

The new statement is an attempt to close the widening divide between Washington, which wants the alliance to engage more in international affairs, and European states that want to maintain the emphasis on defense, according to AP.

"NATO must be versatile and efficient enough to operate far from home," said former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who lead the expert panel that drafted the new mission statement. "In order to sustain the political will for operations outside its area, NATO must see that all its members are reassured about the security of their home territories" (Slobodan Lekic, Associated Press/Google News, May 17).

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