A test version of the new B61-12 guided nuclear bomb to be deployed in Europe as part of a modernization program. Photo from a video by Air Force Staff Sgt. Cody Griffith. A test version of the new B61-12 guided nuclear bomb to be deployed in Europe as part of a modernization program. Photo from a video by Air Force Staff Sgt. Cody Griffith.
In a recent article in Der Spiegel, a leading German newsmagazine, Michele Flournoy and Jim Townsend argued against a German political figure’s suggestion that American nuclear weapons should be removed from Germany, contending such a move would weaken NATO and Germany. No one should lightly take issue with Flournoy or Townsend on nuclear policy or European security. Both are thoughtful experts and former officials with decades of experience and proven track records of enhancing American and allied security.
So, my response to the article, “Striking at the Heart of the Trans-Atlantic Bargain,” begins with important areas of agreement:
-- NATO members should not unilaterally reinterpret or adjust alliance obligations, and discussions about such policy changes are better had in private among member states. Being in an effective and enduring alliance means that all countries must be part of a decision-making process and sometimes make compromises in the interests of collective security.
-- Russian actions continue to challenge the NATO alliance, and all allies must contribute to the defense of the alliance with the goal of deterring Russian destabilization efforts and preserving stability.
-- It is critical that America’s commitment to Europe be enhanced and that European and North American allies have a robust multi-spectrum approach to defend against and deter efforts by Russia to splinter or threaten the alliance.
The otherwise valuable Spiegel piece has one major omission, however: It lacks explicit consideration about the real security and opportunity costs of maintaining the nuclear status quo in Europe, both overall and as it directly relates to the areas of agreement listed above. There is little confidence in any NATO capital that forward-deployed NATO nuclear capabilities can be depended upon in a military conflict with Russia. It is for this reason that NATO continually cites the strategic nuclear capabilities of member states as the ultimate guarantee of NATO’s nuclear deterrent.
Given the military realities, there is real reason for NATO members in general and the United States in particular to be open to a NATO discussion about the future of nuclear sharing and the possibility of withdrawing US nuclear assets from Europe. (end of excerpt)
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