Its time to remove U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe

One of the most pernicious obstacle to sound policy is the inertial effect. It consists of the following: the adoption of a political decision, it begins to live his own life, resisting change, even when the benefits of such solutions is exhausted. For example, we can say with confidence that many more years will waste time in queues at airports, where we checked for safety, even though Osama bin Laden has long been dead. Existing security measures will not pass even the simplest test for benefit-cost ratio — but which political leader would dare to weaken them?

I thought about this issue when I read a new article Tom Sauer (Tom Sauer) and Bob Van Der Ranks (Bob van der Zwaan) about the curious persistence with which the United States hold on to its arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. (The article is called «US Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Europe after NATO's Lisbon Summit: Why Their Withdrawal is Desirable and Feasible» — / U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe after the Lisbon Summit: Why is the output of this weapon is desirable and possible /, and it is published in the latest issue of the academic journal International Relations.) Sauer and Van Der Zwan analyze the various arguments for and against the retention of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. They come in a very convincing, in my view, the conclusion that the good reasons for finding such weapons in Europe is not, but the reason for his withdrawal abound.

I have to admit, before I did not know that the United States in Europe remains tactical nuclear weapons (to apologize for that, but can not keep track of everything). It turns out that we have there is still left a couple of hundred units (ten years ago there were about 500). It is basically a free-fall nuclear bombs that are stored there as part of the agreement a "double key". It means that in peacetime the weapons owned by the U.S., but theoretically in case of war, it can be passed into the possession of a variety of countries on whose territory the weapons are stored (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey).

But do not you think this situation is somewhat absurd two decades after the end of the Cold War? Threat of invasion of Western Europe no longer exists. So there is no need for "linking" the U.S. strategic deterrent forces with European defense through the deployment of the continent of tactical nuclear weapons (those theories that justify the placement of such weapons during the Cold War, has always seemed to me to be senseless, but that's another story.) It is hard to imagine how this weapon helps Dutch, German or Turkish elite to sleep at night, as it helps to calm the population of these countries. In fact, local people should be worrying about the presence of these weapons systems on his land, and therefore the state prefer to keep quiet about them. Here it is — democracy in action!

In short, this weapon is not justified and reasoned strategic focus (so it reduces the amount). However, due to bureaucratic inertia and / or because of the political timidity of the United States and NATO have not decided on what to completely remove it.

As shown by Sauer and Van Der Zwan, the benefits of such a step is very important. This will help reinforce the logic underlying the nuclear disarmament more "delegitimize" nuclear weapons as a status symbol, and thereby to contribute to the cause of nuclear safety. This would correspond to the commitments that have made the United States of America to the signing of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. This will reduce the risk of theft of nuclear materials and weapons, and nuclear terrorism, which is intensified by the fact that the storage of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe do not meet our own standards of safety. If the link is to a further reduction in the Russian arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons, such a measure will strengthen the overall nuclear safety. It will also provide cost savings that these days should be an important priority. Let this step will reduce the degree of faith in America's commitment to the North Atlantic Alliance (which is highly doubtful), but at the same time it will make Europeans think more about their own defense rather than continue to rely on Uncle Sam's dupe.

In short, there are plenty of compelling reasons for the withdrawal of all of this archaic and unnecessary weapons from the European continent. Ideally, we should do so within the framework of a bilateral agreement with Russia. But even if Russia is not interested, we still need to do that. The yard is an election year, and in such years, candidates usually proudly beat their breasts, giving promise in the field of national security. Therefore, significant progress by 2013 should not wait. But getting rid of the useless weapons would be a smart move — no matter who becomes the new president.

And then we have to think about airport security …

Stephen MWalt «Foreign Policy»


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