Five NATO countries plan to call for the removal of all U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Europe, reports Agence France Presse (Pascal Mallet, “Allied bid for Obama to remove US European nuclear stockpile,” AFP, 19 February 2010).
The five–Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Norway–include three of the four or five European NATO members that still participate in the controversial NATO “nuclear-sharing” program, under which U.S. nuclear weapons are stored on Allied airbases and Allied pilots are trained to deliver the weapons in the event of a NATO decision to use them. Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy each maintain one fighter-bomber squadron equipped with U.S. B-61 nuclear bombs. Turkey also may still be participating in the program, but this has not been confirmed. In addition to the nuclear-sharing program, the U.S. stockpiles B-61 bombs in Italy and Turkey for the use of U.S. forces. In total, about 150-200 U.S. bombs are thought to be based in Europe.
The bid to remove the weapons comes as NATO is considering how to update its “Strategic Concept” document, which (among other elements) spells out the role of nuclear weapons in NATO strategy. The last update of the Strategic Concept took place in 1999. The Canadian government tried to encourage NATO to reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons during the run-up to that review. But there was little buy-in from the other NATO allies at that time.
About the best we can hope for this time around is that Canada won’t try to stand in the way of a saner approach to NATO nuclear policy.
Photo by Hans Kristensen/Touchdown Aviation