Withdrawal issues: NATO countries on the future of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe

According to “Withdrawal issues: What NATO countries say about the future of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe,” a recently released report by peace advocacy group IKV Pax Christi, there is sufficient political will within NATO to end the deployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) in Europe.

The report found that 14 NATO members, half of all NATO member states, actively support the end of TNW deployment, while 10 others say they would not block a consensus decision to remove the weapons. Only three NATO members (France, Hungary, and Lithuania) say they are opposed to removing the weapons, and only France is willing to invest political capital to keep them deployed in Europe. (U.S. TNW are currently deployed in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey.)

The report notes that there is no easy formula to accurately portray national positions.  However, the majority cited obsolescence, more practical burden sharing, and a desire for visible demonstrations of alliance solidarity as the main reasons to end TNW deployment.  Alliance cohesion, Russian reciprocity, and French resistance are the three main obstacles countries said needed to be cleared before the TNW can be removed.

The process of deciding the future of TNW deployment is currently at an impasse. NATO’s Strategic Concept dictates that the alliance first “aim to seek” Russian agreement on reciprocal steps, but Russia refuses to discuss the matter until the U.S. relocates all of its TNW back to the U.S.  The report notes that in order to break the impasse, multiple actors must work in multiple arenas.

Among other recommendations, the report suggests that NATO create a mandate for the U.S. to approach Russia with an offer to relocate its TNW if Russia is willing to include concerns about the role of its own TNW in future disarmament talks.

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