22 April 2010
US Rules Out Removing Its Nukes From Europe
Officials Insist Nukes 'Essential'
by Jason Ditz


Despite increased calls from European officials to remove them, the United States today ruled out moving its hundreds of �battlefield nukes� from Europe, insisting that they must remain to ensure that Europe shares the �nuclear risks and responsibilities.�

The comments came in response to an open letter from a number of high ranking European officials, who said that the nukes were a Cold War relic with no practical value and were just a constant danger. They are also in conflict with President Obama�s ostensible hope for nuclear disarmament.

NATO Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen defended the US position, saying the nukes remain �essential� as a deterrent. What the nations of Europe are supposed to need hundreds of nuclear weapons as a deterrent against, however, is unclear.

German FM Guido Westerwelle says that the withdrawal of the weapons would be a �peace dividend,� while his Polish counterpark Radek Sikorski added that there were �far too many� nuclear weapons in Europe.

22 April 2010
U.S. signals its nuclear arms stay in Europe for now
Arshad Mohammed and David Brunnstrom


(Reuters) - The United States appeared on Thursday to rule out an early withdrawal of its battlefield nuclear weapons from Europe and said if it cut its arsenal it would want Russia to move its arms further from NATO nations.

The stance sketched out by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is likely to please former Soviet satellites now in the 28-member Western security alliance who view the so-called "tactical" nuclear weapons as critical to deterring Russia.

However, it may frustrate those that regard them as Cold War relics that have little military justification but bring huge risks -- including of accidents or nuclear terrorism -- to the nations that house them.

"As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance," Clinton said in remarks prepared for delivery to NATO foreign ministers.

"As a nuclear alliance, sharing nuclear risks and responsibilities is fundamental," she added in the remarks, which were released by the State Department.

The reference to sharing risks and burdens implied some of the estimated 200 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons deployed in five European nations will stay for now. Russia's arsenal is estimated at 5,400 weapons, 2,000 of which are deployable.

Attention has turned to "tactical" nuclear bombs stationed in NATO countries and Russia since Washington and Moscow this month signed a deal to cut the number of deployed long-range, "strategic" nuclear warheads by about 30 percent.

Germany's ruling coalition committed in November to the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from German territory. In February, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium and Luxembourg called for a debate about their future in Europe.

However, Russia says it will not start destroying its massive superiority in the weapons until Washington removes its bombs from Europe, a prospect worrying to former Soviet bloc states that are now part of NATO.

Clinton made clear that the United States would be loath to trim its arsenal without some Russian compromises.

"In any future reductions, our aim should be to seek Russian agreement to increase transparency on non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe, relocate those weapons away from the territory of NATO members, and include non-strategic nuclear weapons in the next round of U.S.-Russian arms control discussions," she said.


At an earlier news conference, Clinton tried to reassure former Soviet states nervous about Russia.

"Let me be clear: our commitment to Estonia and our other allies is a bedrock principle for the United States and we will never waiver from it," she said in the Estonian capital.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that while the Western security alliance must debate the matter, he personally believed "the presence of American nuclear weapons in Europe is an essential part of a credible deterrent."

Washington and Rasmussen have stressed the need for unity among NATO's 28 members and while no agreement is expected in Tallinn, the alliance aims to set out its nuclear stance in a strategic vision due to be approved at a summit in November.

Analysts say tactical nuclear arms have little military rationale in a post-Cold War world, especially since readiness had been so reduced that they would take months to deploy.

But a key concern is that any move to remove NATO nuclear weapons could prompt Turkey to develop its own deterrent, given its worries about nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association nonprofit group in Washington, said he found Clinton's stance "disappointing" and said linking NATO action on its residual tactical nuclear stockpile to Russian action on tactical nuclear weapons was a recipe for delay and inaction.

"NATO must ... recognize that in the 21st century, these smaller, more (portable) nuclear bombs are a security liability not an asset -- they are a target for terrorists, blur the line between conventional and nuclear conflict, and are a drag on global nonproliferation efforts," he said.

(Additional reporting by Ilona Wissenbach)

22 April 2010
U.S. Urging NATO to Maintain Nuclear Deterrent
By Mark Landler
New York Times


Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Tallinn, Estonia, on Thursday.

TALLINN, Estonia - Fresh off signing a strategic nuclear arms deal with Russia, the United States is parrying a push by NATO allies to withdraw its aging stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.

At a meeting of foreign ministers of NATO countries here, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and other countries are prodding the United States to begin negotiations with Russia for steep reductions in so-called nonstrategic weapons � mostly aerial bombs which, in the case of the United States, are stored in underground vaults on air bases in five NATO countries.

But Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was expected to urge caution in remarks to the ministers on Thursday evening. A senior American official said she would underscore the need for NATO to maintain a deterrent capability and the need for the alliance to act together on this issue. The Obama administration is also pushing for NATO to embrace the American missile-defense system in Eastern Europe as a core mission of the alliance.

Some officials worry that the debate over tactical nuclear weapons, if not properly handled, could splinter the alliance � pitting longtime NATO members against newer members like Turkey and the former Soviet satellites, which are more reluctant to push for the removal of these weapons.

�There won�t be any decision on this issue,� said a senior administration official, who characterized the talks as less a debate than a seminar on the changing role of nuclear weapons in today�s world.

�We haven�t had a real discussion about nuclear weapons in NATO for a long time,� said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid preempting Mrs. Clinton�s speech.

The meeting comes at a time when NATO�s 28 members are rethinking much of the rationale for this Cold War alliance. The United States, for its part, is pushing to streamline NATO�s bureaucracy and make it more responsive to 21st-century threats in places like Afghanistan.

American officials say that NATO has grown into a sprawling institution with 320 committees, 14 agencies, 6,000 employees, and an annual budget of some 5 billion euros, or 6.7 billion dollars. They would like it to spend less at its headquarters in Brussels and funnel more money to combat missions in Afghanistan.

�This alliance is bloated,� the American official said. �It needs to be reorganized for the 21st century.�

This meeting almost did not happen. The cloud of ash from the Icelandic volcano hung over Tallinn all week, leading many people to assume the gathering would be scrubbed. When the winds nudged the cloud away from Estonia, officials said, NATO decided to go ahead, with some ministers arriving on propeller planes that flew at low altitudes below the ash.

Mrs. Clinton�s jet flew to Spain, well south of Iceland, but faced a tense moment when the ash cloud suddenly drifted back over Estonia. After a delay, her plane headed for Tallinn early on Thursday, with the pilots unsure if they would able to land until the skies cleared. Mrs. Clinton had scratched a one-day visit to Finland on Wednesday because of the flight restrictions.

On Thursday, Mrs. Clinton met with Estonia�s foreign minister, Urmas Paet, and reiterated America�s commitment to defend it and other NATO allies from aggression. Estonia, which languished under Soviet domination for decades, was more recently targeted by a sophisticated cyber attack, which its government believes originated inside the Russian government.

�He�s old enough to remember the Soviet occupation,� Mrs. Clinton said of Mr. Paet, who turned 36 this week.

�We believe there is no sphere of influence, that there is no veto power that Russia or any country has over any country in Europe, or in this region, concerning membership in NATO,� she said.

Mrs. Clinton also had stern words for Syria, which was accused by the Israeli government last week of selling long-range Scud missiles to the radical Islamic group Hezbollah in Lebanon.

American intelligence officials have not confirmed that the missiles were actually delivered to Hezbollah. But Mrs. Clinton said the United States was deeply disturbed by the reports, as well as the transfer of missile technology into Syria. Iran has often been a source for that technology.

Still, Mrs. Clinton said the Obama administration would not abandon its efforts to reach out to the Syrian government. It is trying to win Senate confirmation for a new ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, who would be the first American envoy to Damascus in five years.

The Bush administration withdrew the last ambassador in 2005 to protest Syria�s alleged role in the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria has denied any role in his killing.

�This is not some kind of reward for the Syrians, and the actions they take, which are deeply disturbing,� Mrs. Clinton said of Mr. Ford�s appointment. �It�s a tool that we believe can give us extra leverage, insight, analysis, information, with respect to Syria�s actions and intentions.�

22 April 2010
Clinton Says NATO Should Keep Tactical Nuclear Arms
By Nicole Gaouette
Bloomberg Businessweek


Tactical nuclear weapons should stay in Europe, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told foreign ministers at a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization today.

As the 28-nation alliance formally discussed nuclear weapons for the first time, Clinton urged members to include NATO�s stance on tactical nuclear arms in a strategic review due by November. She also linked greater transparency about those weapons to Russian willingness to demonstrate a similar openness.

�First, we should recognize that as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance,� Clinton said during a working dinner in Tallinn, Estonia.

Political leaders in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and Norway, including German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, have urged the U.S. to pull its nuclear weapons from the continent. They say such U.S. deployments conflict with the spirit, if not the letter, of President Barack Obama�s campaign against nuclear proliferation.

The five countries wrote a letter asking that the tactical weapons be included in NATO discussions for the first time. The German government referred to ending the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe.

Since the letter, the U.S. has signed a new agreement with Russia to reduce their strategic nuclear arsenals, issued a policy review that declares nuclear terrorism as a threat, and held a summit of world leaders in Washington to urge the securing of nuclear materials worldwide.

Arms Reduction

Russia and the U.S. haven�t reached similar arms reduction agreements on tactical nuclear warheads, which are designed to be used in battlefields over shorter distances.

Europe hosts about 200 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons under NATO control, according to a 2009 report by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

The U.S. bombs in Europe are designed to be dropped from warplanes, in contrast with strategic nuclear weapons that can be fired over intercontinental distances from long-range missiles or bombers or submarines.

The U.S. shouldn�t try to link the withdrawal of its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe with reciprocal Russian actions, because officials in Moscow have long cited the U.S. arsenal in refusing to negotiate about its own tactical bombs, said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association.

�Obstacle� to Talks

�These are really an obstacle to getting Russia into a negotiation,� Kimball said in a telephone interview. �As long as we keep them there, it provides them with a cynical excuse not to engage in talks.�

Russia is estimated to have between 2,000 and 6,000 tactical nuclear warheads, according a January report from the Congressional Research Service.

�In any future reductions, our aim should be to seek Russian agreement to increase transparency on non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe,� Clinton said.

The pursuit of Russian transparency was one of five principles Clinton laid out to guide debate on NATO�s approach to nuclear weapons. Others included NATO members sharing the �nuclear risks and responsibilities� and the need for NATO to broaden deterrence against 21st century threats.

Clinton also called on NATO to continue to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons and declared that NATO would remain a nuclear alliance for the foreseeable future.

--With assistance from Viola Gienger in Washington. Editors: Ann Hughey, Bob Drummond.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jim Kirk at [email protected].

22 April 2010
Rasmussen: US nuclear weapons in Europe 'essential' - Summary
Earth Times


Tallinn - The remaining stores of US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe are "essential" to NATO's deterrent capability, the alliance's top official said Thursday as NATO foreign ministers held informal talks in the Estonian capital, Tallinn.

The US is thought to have some 200 "battlefield nukes" stored in European states such as Belgium, Germany, Italy and Norway, but some politicians in those countries want them removed, arguing that they are simply a legacy of the Cold War.

"My personal view is: the presence of American nuclear weapons in Europe is an essential part of a credible nuclear deterrent," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told journalists after the ministers' first round of talks.

The 28-member organization is currently re-thinking its entire strategy, including its use of nuclear arms, to deal with new security threats. National leaders are set to establish a new doctrine at a summit in November, but officials say that some of the key points are already clear.

"In a world where nuclear weapons actually exist, NATO needs a credible, effective and safely managed deterrent," Rasmussen said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated that a reduction of US nuclear weapons in Europe could only be considered if there were a parallel agreement with Russia, according to diplomats in Tallinn.

Diplomats within the alliance also say that there is a broad agreement that no state will take decisions on the nuclear issue without the support of the bloc as a whole.

But German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle insisted Thursday that his country wanted to see the US withdraw its nuclear weapons, arguing that there was no need for them after the Cold War.

Analysts estimate that the US currently has some 160-200 tactical nuclear warheads stocked in Europe, while Russia is thought to have up to 4,000.

The withdrawal of those weapons would be "a peace dividend, for Germans as well as everyone else," Westerwelle said.

Calls for cuts in battlefield nuclear weapons have grown in volume since the US and Russia on April 8 signed a new disarmament treaty, covering strategic weapons, in Prague.

"After the START treaty between Russia and the US, we should deal with regulating and reducing the next level of nuclear weapons, which is the sub-strategic, so-called tactical weapons. Those are the ones of which there are far too many in Europe," Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said.

Westerwelle agreed, calling the current moment "a window of opportunity for disarmament."

Poland and Norway have called for talks with Russia on the scrapping of tactical nuclear arms.

Rasmussen said that he did not want to prejudge forthcoming talks on the nuclear issue, but that "it is clear that there is now new wind in the sails when it comes to reducing nuclear weapons and nuclear risks" following the US-Russia accord.

Over dinner on Thursday, ministers were set to debate calls for a NATO-wide missile defence shield against "rogue states" such as Iran and North Korea. The US already has such a system, and is currently in talks to roll it out across Eastern Europe, but Rasmussen wants to see a wider system that could ultimately cover both NATO and Russia.

"States or other actors might not be rational enough to be deterred by our nuclear weapons. But they might be deterred by the realization that their few missiles might not get through our defences," Rasmussen said.

Ministers in Tallinn also discussed Bosnia's request to be granted a NATO membership action plan, or MAP, a list of closely-monitored reforms seen as the first step towards eventual membership.

In December, the same ministers agreed that the former-Yugoslav state would be given such a plan as soon as its feuding political leaders manage to prove that they are capable of bridging their differences.

A week ago, those leaders finally took a number of key decisions on military issues. Ministers on Thursday debated whether the moves were enough to merit a MAP, but failed to find agreement in their first working session, as they had hoped to do.

Those decisions "are important steps for us ... We will continue our discussions tonight and it is my clear expectation that we will be able to take a decision at this meeting here in Tallinn," Rasmussen said.

On Friday, ministers are set to debate the question of how to hand over responsibility in Afghanistan to local forces.


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